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Congressman Scott Tipton

Representing the 3rd District of Colorado

Sponsored Legislation: The Water Rights Protection Act (WRPA)

About the Bill:

Congressman Scott Tipton has reintroduced the widely-supported Water Rights Protection Act (WRPA) in the 114th Congress. The bill, which passed the House in the 113th Congress with bipartisan support, would uphold state water law and priority-based systems. H.R. 1830 would provide water users with a line of defense from increasing federal attempts, such as the Forest Service Groundwater Management Directive and ski area permit clause, to take private water rights without compensation or restrict user access to them. In March, 2015, Forest Service Deputy Chief Leslie Weldon affirmed comments made by U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell in a February Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing distancing the Forest Service from its Groundwater Directive. Weldon’s testimony indicated that that the agency is for the time being holding off on the controversial directive, but intends to issue a new rule once gathering further input on the issue. Senator John Barrasso has introduced

The Water Rights Protection Act (H.R. 1830):

  • Prohibits agencies from implementing a permit condition that requires the transfer of privately-held water rights to the federal government in order to receive or renew a permit for the use of land;
  • Prohibits the Secretary of the Interior and the Secretary of Agriculture from imposing other conditions that require the transfer of water rights without just compensation;
  • Upholds longstanding federal deference to state water law;
  • Maintains environmental safeguards, and will not impact Bureau of Reclamation water contracts in any way. Likewise, the legislation will have no impact any authority existing within a jurisdiction. These are outside the scope of the legislation;
  • Has no cost to taxpayers.

What they’re saying:

“The steady flow of federal agency actions to assert federal control over private water rights directly interferes with the ability of the American people to access their private property. These federal water grabs undermine the long-held state water law that protects the many uses vital to the Western U.S., create uncertainty, and jeopardize the livelihoods of communities, individuals, and businesses responsible for thousands of jobs. Senator Barrasso and I share a deep commitment with our colleagues to the defense of private water rights, and are dedicated to this cause of stopping nefarious federal overreach and restoring needed certainty to all water users by ensuring that all non-federal water rights are upheld.”—Congressman Scott Tipton

“Federal land agencies have absolutely no business strong-arming individuals or businesses into turning over their privately held water rights as a condition of obtaining or renewing a permit. Despite the Obama Administration’s recent attempt to downplay these outrageous water grabs, there is no guarantee that they won’t pursue policies like this again in the future. Congress must provide clear legislative direction to federal land management agencies or they will continue to impose restrictions that deny agricultural, recreational and economic activity throughout our communities. Representative Tipton and I have teamed up with legislation to provide certainty to water users across the West and block any future attempts by Washington to take over private water rights.”—Senator John Barrasso (R-WY)

“The Water Rights Protection Act would stop the federal government from taking water rights, both surface and groundwater, from private parties in violation of state water law and 5th Amendment property rights protections. The intent of the bill is narrow –to protect valuable property interests of ski areas and other permittees that use federal land from seizure without compensation by the federal government. Essentially everyone agrees on the need for this protection, given past and current Forest Service policy that demands transfer of valuable water rights to the U.S. without compensation.”National Ski Areas Association

“The U.S. Forest Service and other federal agencies have begun to require privately owned businesses to surrender long-held water rights –which they have paid for and developed –as a condition of receiving renewals in their special use permits that allow them to operate on public land. This kind of power grab by the federal government violates federal and state law and would ultimately upset water allocation systems and private property rights on which western economies have been built.”—American Farm Bureau Federation

Co-sponsors:

House: Reps. Mark Amodei, Jason Chaffetz, Mike Coffman, Paul Gosar, Raul Labrador, Doug LaMalfa, Doug Lamborn, Mia Love, Cynthia Lummis, Tom McClintock, GT Thompson, Steve Pearce, Reid Ribble, Mike Simpson, Lamar Smith, Chris Stewart, Bruce Westerman, Ryan Zinke, Trent Franks, Ken Buck, Tom Reed and Mike Kelly. Senate: Sens. Dean Heller, Mike Crapo, Mike Enzi, Jeff Flake, James Risch, Orrin Hatch, Deb Fischer and Cory Gardner.

Endorsements in the 114th Congress include:

National Ski Areas Association, American Farm Bureau Federation, Family Farm Alliance, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, American Sheep Industry Association, CLUB 20, Colorado Wool Growers Association, State Farm Bureaus, Gunnison County Commissioners, Hinsdale County Commissioners, Montrose County Commissioners, Rio Grande Watershed Association of Conservation Districts.

Recent News Coverage Highlights:

Grand Junction Daily Sentinel: Tipton water bill wins support of Wyoming senator. Read more.

Vail Daily: Tipton's bill aims to protect water rights from the feds. Read here.

Grand Junction Daily Sentinel: Bill meant to protect state water, Tipton says. Read more.

Grand Junction News Channel 11: Congressman Tipton talks about water and jobs at Club 20 meeting. Watch here.

Aspen Times: Aspen Skiing Co. at offs with enviro group over water rights. Read here.

Columns on WRPA by Congressman Tipton:

Column: Federal attempts to take private water loom in the West. Read here.

Column: An opportunity to get things done. Read here.

Column: Colorado's Water Rights at Risk. Read here.