Water Rights Protection Act PASSES Created by rrummel on 3/24/2014 1:29:52 PM
Farm Bureau Cheers U-S House Passage
The House of Representatives
last week approved Farm Bureau-supported legislation (H.R. 3189) that
recognizes states' long-standing authority to confer water rights and retains
the position that the federal government will respect those lawfully acquired
"The Water Rights
Protection Act does not expand rights for individuals at the expense of any
federal agency, nor does it in any way limit or constrain existing rights held
by the U.S. Forest Service or the Bureau of Land Management," noted Ryan
Yates, American Farm Bureau Federation water rights specialist.
In protecting privately held
water rights, prohibiting federal takings and upholding state water law, the
bill would prohibit agencies within USDA and the Department of the Interior
from imposing conditions through the permit process that would require the
transfer of privately held water rights to the federal government in order to
receive or renew the federal permit for the use of land. It also
would prohibit the Secretary of the Interior and the Secretary of Agriculture
from requiring water users to acquire rights for the United States rather than
for the water users themselves.
The bill protects water users
by prohibiting federal agencies from extorting water rights through the use of
permits, leases and other land management arrangements, for which the federal
government would otherwise have to pay just compensation under the Fifth
Amendment of the Constitution.
During debate on the bill,
lawmakers rejected a Farm Bureau-opposed amendment to the legislation.
Introduced by Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.), the amendment was in direct contrast
to the original intent of the legislation, which is to assure that existing
state and federal laws are respected. Instead, according to Farm Bureau,
the Polis proposal would have treated owners of state water rights in an
unequal, unprecedented fashion.
"It would carve out
certain protections for one class of user while explicitly excluding
others-even though the second group has an equally legitimate right to
protection under the law," American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob
Stallman wrote in a letter to House lawmakers. "There is no sound
basis for supporting such an approach, and we urge all members to vote against
this harmful amendment."
The Water Rights Protection
Act was drafted in response to the USFS' attempt to implement a water clause
for ski area permit holders that required ski areas to turn over privately-held
water rights without compensation in order to receive a renewed USFS land
permit. USFS first tried to put the water clause in place in 2011, but in
December 2012 a federal district court in Colorado struck it down.
Now, according to Sen. Mike
Crapo (R-Idaho), a sponsor of the Senate companion bill, USFS is again trying
to push this policy through a revised water clause. Farmers and ranchers
are worried that if the USFS is allowed to move forward, it will open the door
for other federal agencies like the BLM to implement a similar policy for
grazing permits and other multiple-use activities that require a federal land
use permit and involves the use of water.
At an October 2013 hearing
before the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Water and Power, Utah Farm
Bureau CEO Randy Parker testified on AFBF's behalf in favor of the bill, saying
continued state control of water rights is critically important to farmers and
"Farm Bureau supports
H.R. 3189, the Water Rights Protection Act, because it is designed to dispel
uncertainty and recognizes state sovereignty and historic water law," said
Parker. Further, he explained, H.R. 3189 recognizes states' sovereign water
rights and protects livestock water rights from illegal federal claims and