Ski areas group welcomes legislation

A measure that would bar federal agencies from demanding state water rights in exchange for permits to use federal lands will get a vote in the U.S. House.

The House Resources Committee on Thursday passed H.R. 3189, the Water Rights Protection Act by U.S. Reps. Scott Tipton, a Republican, and Jared Polis, a Democrat.

The U.S. Forest Service said this week that it would not require ski areas to surrender water rights in exchange for permits to operate on forest lands. The imposition of that requirement prompted the legislation, but Tipton said legislation is needed.

“Water users need certainty that all federal land management agencies, not just the Forest Service, are prohibited from future attempts to take privately held water rights,” Tipton said in a statement.

The National Ski Areas Association said the measure is necessary to give stability to its members.

“The policy change announced by the agency is the fourth change in Forest Service water policy for ski areas in 10 years,” the association said.

“These changes are disruptive, create uncertainty and adversely impact our operations, planning and future growth.”

Only federal legislation can provide long-term protection against the taking of water rights by the federal government, the association said.

A floor vote has not been scheduled.

A companion measure sponsored by Sen. John Barasso, R-Wyo., has been introduced in the Senate.


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