House measure would protect rights to water
A measure by U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Colo., that would protect state-issued water rights against federal taking is included in an appropriations measure now headed to the Senate.
Passage of the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act of 2017, H.R. 5538, marked the first Interior appropriations bill to pass the House in seven years.
The measure sets the budget and policy priorities for the Forest Service, Park Service, Bureau of Land Management and other agencies.
The measure would fully fund the payment-in-lieu-of-taxes program, in which the federal government pays local governments to support services the local governments provide on federal land, such as law enforcement and emergency response.
A restriction limiting the president’s use of the Antiquities Act of 1906 in the Colorado counties of Conejos, Dolores, Moffat and Montezuma, is also included.
The Antiquities Act allows the president to designate monuments without congressional approval.
“The process for designating public lands should start in communities, not the White House,” Tipton said.
Another aspect of the bill cuts federal spending by $64 million from fiscal year 2016 levels, while increasing funding for forest-health programs by $70 million.
It also would prohibit the Environmental Protection Agency from moving forward with its Waters of the U.S. rule and implementing new greenhouse-gas regulations in the Clean Power Plan while blocking proposed increases in grazing fees on BLM lands.
Also included is a requirement that the EPA continue to operate and maintain a temporary water-treatment plant that was installed at Gladstone following the Gold King Mine spill, until a long term water-treatment and cleanup plan is in place.
Tipton introduced the Water Rights Protection Act in the previous Congress in response to a requirement by the Forest Service that the new owners of Powderhorn Mountain Resort surrender their water rights to obtain a permit to operate the ski area on federal land.
“With the third passage of my bill to protect state water laws and private water rights, I’m hopeful we will be able to finalize permanent protections for the property rights that are vital to the economic well-being of Colorado,” Tipton said.