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Congressman Scott Tipton

Representing the 3rd District of Colorado

The Water Rights Protection Act in the 115th Congress

Congressman Scott Tipton (CO-03) reintroduced the Water Rights Protection Act (H.R. 2939) on June 21, 2017. The bill would uphold federal deference to state water law and prevent federal takings of privately held water rights.

Tipton introduced the first version of the Water Rights Protection Act in the 113th Congress in response to the U.S. Forest Service’s (USFS) 2011 and 2012 ski area permit clauses, under which the agency was attempting to require the transfer of privately-held water rights to the federal government as a permit condition for ski areas operating on federal land. The Powderhorn Ski Area and Breckenridge Ski Resort had been impacted by the permit clauses. The Water Rights Protection Act would prohibit any federal agency from requiring the transfer of privately-held water rights as a permit condition

In 2014, the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) 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 The USFS has since withdrawn the measure, but it has indicated a desire to issue a revised directive in the future. The Water Rights Protection Act would require any future USFS directives to be consistent with state water law.

The Water Rights Protection Act passed out of the House of Representatives with bipartisan support in both the 113th and 114th Congresses. 

What they're saying:

“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 Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management. 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. 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." - Scott Tipton 

“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.” - Dolores Water Conservancy District 

“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 Representative Tipton’s efforts.” - Garfield County Board of Commissioners 

"It's time to put a stop to federal strong-arming of ranchers by a government that owns the majority of the land for grazing west of the Mississippi. Water is the most valuable resource for every farmers and rancher. Unfortunately, the federal tactics we've seen in recent years have little to do with conservation and everthing to do with big goverment and control. If passed, the Water Rights Protection Act would bar the federal government from seizing state-granted water rights from ranchers and restore basic property rights to them." - Zippy Duvall, President of the American Farm Bureau Federation 

Support for the Water Rights Protection Act

Updates on the Water Rights Protection Act