Taking on water
Legislation recognizing the water laws of Colorado and other western states could discourage federal efforts to claim water, said U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Colo.
Tipton will introduce legislation aimed at codifying western water law to deter federal pre-emption of water rights, he said.
“The West is under assault at this time,” Tipton said Saturday at the fall meeting of Club 20, the Western Slope advocacy organization.
The most recent battleground over water is a demand that ski areas surrender water rights to the U.S. Forest Service as a condition of obtaining their permits to operate on lands administered by the Forest Service.
Forest Service officials said the requirement was necessary to assure the continued use of the water for skiing. Many ski areas use their water rights to make snow.
Ski areas, and others, sued the Forest Service and gained a temporary victory when a federal judge ruled that the agency hadn’t followed federal procedures when it applied the directive in 2011 to the new owners of Powderhorn Mountain Resort near Grand Junction.
The new owners were required to agree to the directive before they could open the mountain that ski season.
The National Ski Areas Association said the demand amounted to a federal taking of private property.
Tipton said he will unveil the legislation, which will amount to a simple, two-page bill, in September.