Tipton reintroduces bill to protect water rights, preserve state water law
WASHINGTON — Congressman Scott Tipton who represents Colorado’s 3rd Congressional District, has reintroduced the Water Rights Protection Act, a bill that would uphold federal deference to state water law and prevent federal takings of privately held water rights.
“In recent years, the federal government has repeatedly attempted to circumvent long-established state water law by requiring the transfer of privately-held water rights to the federal government as a permit condition for use of land owned by the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management,” Tipton said. “These efforts constitute a gross federal overreach and violation of private property rights. My bill provides permanent protections for ski areas, farmers, ranchers and others in the West.”
In 2014, the U.S. Forest Service proposed the Groundwater Resource Management Directive, which gave the federal government jurisdiction over groundwater in a manner that was inconsistent with long-established state water law. The Forest Service withdrew the measure but has indicated a desire to issue a revised directive in the future. The Water Rights Protection Act would prohibit the Departments of Agriculture and the Interior from requiring the transfer of water rights as a condition of any land-use permit. The bill would also ensure that any future groundwater directives from the Departments of Agriculture and the Interior are consistent with state water law.
Tipton’s bill has drawn praise from county commissioners and water conservancy districts across the Third Congressional District of Colorado. That district encompasses most of the Western Slope, as well as about 60 percent of Eagle County.
In a letter of support, the Dolores Water Conservancy District wrote, “The Water Rights Protection Act decisively addresses the elimination of risks and uncertainties related to federal taking of water. The clarification and direction provided by the proposed act will make management decisions, and work with our partners to make important water supply decisions, much more certain and secure.”
The Garfield County Board of Commissioners wrote, “Garfield County, like many governments in Colorado and the west, remains fiercely concerned over the continued challenge the federal government poses to the supremacy of Colorado water law. To that end, Garfield County places its full support behind Rep. Tipton’s efforts.”
The Water Rights Protection Act passed out of the House of Representatives with bipartisan support in both the 113th and 114th Congresses.
“Water is the most precious resource we have in the arid West, and how we manage and protect our water supply has implications on everything from growing crops to managing wildlife habitats. The Water Rights Protection Act is a sensible approach that would preserve the water rights of all water users and provide certainty that the federal government cannot take their rights in the future,” Tipton added.