From email from the Western Rivers Action Network:
You’re Invited: January Lunchtime Webinar Series
Noon January 6
The final Colorado Water Plan, released November 2015, is an important step forward for Colorado on future water management. The plan reflects many Coloradan’s values and water priorities. The plan shows important progress by setting water conservation goals, proposing funding for healthy rivers, and making a large new trans-mountain diversion less likely. But, what does the plan say about funding, storage, permitting, or criteria for state water project support?
In “Prior Appropriation” states like Colorado the USFS is requiring a hydrological analysis of water rights that will be used to operate the ski area under its permit. The analysis must demonstrate adequacy for the needs under the permit. Also, before severing any part of a right dedicated to the permit another hydrological analysis must show that no harm to the needs under the permit. The rule also covers what can be done with a right if the permittee sells the ski area.
They’ve backed off on the transfer of title for rights to the United States.
Click here to read the the permit language in prior appropriation states.
Click here to read US Representative Tipton’s statement:
Today, Congressman Scott Tipton (R-CO) issued this statement in response to the U.S. Forest Service’s publication of the final directive for the Ski Area Water Clause in the federal record.
“The Forest Service’s conditional use of permit for ski areas has been one of the Administration’s most onerous attempts to hijack private water rights. While the latest version of the directive is improved from the original that sought to outright force the transfer of private water rights to the federal government, there still is room for improvement. The latest rendition of this ill-fated directive places unnecessary restrictions on private water rights holders, in an attempt to solve a problem that doesn’t exist. By the Forest Service Chief’s own admission, there has not been an instance of ski area water rights being sold off for other uses. Furthermore, there is still ongoing concern that while the Forest Service may not require the outright transfer of private water rights in this directive, it is still enforcing manuals that do.
“Western water users are right to be wary of any action on water rights by this Administration, which has been dead set on slowly expanding federal control over water in the Western U.S. We continue to work on getting legislative protections in place to codify state water law and defend private water rights users from federal taking and interference as our Water Rights Protection Act seeks to do.”
Despite the Forest Service’s insistence that under the new ski area permit condition it will no longer require the transfer of water rights, Forest Service manual 2441.32 (Possessory Interests), which is currently being enforced, instructs the agency to continue to claim water rights of permittees. It is unclear if or how the Forest Service plans to reconcile the conflicting instructions.
Section 2541.32 of the 2007 Forest Service Water Uses and Development Manual directs:
“Claim possessory interest in water rights in the name of the United States for water uses on National Forest System lands as follows:
“Claim water rights for water used directly by the Forest Service and by the general public on the National Forest System.
“Claim water rights for water used by permittees, contractors, and other authorized users of the National Forest System, to carry out activities related to multiple use objectives. Make these claims if both water use and water development are on the
“National Forest System and one or more of the following situations exists:
a. National Forest management alternatives or efficiency will be limited if another party holds the water right.
b. Forest Service programs or activities will continue after the current permittee, contractors or other authorized user discontinues operations.”
Tipton has led the charge in Congress to protect private water rights users from federal takings and interference. He is the sponsor of the Water Rights Protection Act, H.R. 1830, which would provide water users with a line of defense from federal attempts, such as the Forest Service Groundwater Management Directive and ski area permit clause, to take private water rights without compensation or restrict user access to them. H.R. 1830 has passed the House in the 113th and 114th Congresses, and has wide support from local, state and national stakeholders including the National Ski Areas Association.
FromThe Colorado Springs Gazette (Ryan Maye Handy):
A Christmas snowstorm in Colorado triggered hundreds of avalanches and closed several mountain passes, but it also left much of the state with a sizable boost in snowpack, a key to ensuring communities will have enough water reserves come summer.
“Our winters really seem to be made or broken by the presence of one or two big storms … and this was one of those big storms for us,” said Joe Ramey, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Grand Junction. “It was a season-defining event for us.”
The storm brought much-needed moisture to southwestern Colorado, which for years has been drier than the Front Range, but drastically improved snowpack measurements around the state. Colorado’s water comes mostly from mountain snowpack accumulated during the winter and spring. In a few weeks, federal and local agencies will start monitoring that snowpack and its equivalent amount of water to forecast water reserves for the year.
“It is still early season, but we got a lot of moisture out of this,” Ramey said. “That’s important for Colorado.”
Ramey said a veritable “river of moisture” blew in Colorado on Dec. 20 from the central Pacific, bringing heavy snow and wind. The wind in particular might have set up the mountain areas for high avalanche risk, since wind-loaded slopes are more prone to slides.