H.R. 3189, The Water Rights Protection Act, is a straightforward, bipartisan bill to protect private property rights from recent federal overreach that threatens to take water supplies from recreation businesses, ranchers, cities and towns, and local conservation efforts.
The bill will stop the federal government from demanding citizens and businesses turn over their privately owned water in order to qualify for a federal permit or lease.
Entire regional economies and millions of jobs are dependent on reliable water – and federal bureaucrats under the Obama Administration have sought to extort water from individual citizens and businesses through the permitting process. This heavy-handed tactic threatens to undermine over a century of established law that upholds a state’s right to manage its water and water laws.
Even more egregious is that the federal bureaucracy is demanding water be signed over to the government without payment – which means valuable property would be taken in violation of the Constitution’s guarantee of just compensation.
For example, many of the Nation’s ski areas are operated on federal lands. In order to operate there, the ski area pays a fee and gets a permit from the federal government. The water used to make snow is granted to the ski area by the state, for which the ski area pays market value. In an effort to own and control water that does not belong to them, federal agencies are now seeking to insert requirements in these permits to hand over water rights to the federal government. Ski areas then face a choice of either forfeiting its valuable property right that’s necessary to operate, or lose their permit and shut down. Others face the same threat, including ranchers who have operated for a century.
This would be like going to the DMV to get your driver's license renewed and the DMV telling you that in order to do so, you have to sign over ownership of your car’s transmission. The permit is no good without the water.
Specifically, the bill protects water users and upholds state water law by:
Prohibiting federal agencies from imposing a permit condition that requires the transfer of privately held water rights directly to the federal government in order to receive or renew a permit to operate on the land; and
Prohibiting the Secretaries of the Interior and Agriculture from requiring water users to acquire rights for the United States rather than for the water user themselves.
The bipartisan bill is endorsed by the National Ski Areas Association, the American Farm Bureau Federation, the National Association of Conservation Districts, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, the Family Farm Alliance, the National Water Resources Association, the Colorado River Conservation District, the Colorado Association of Conservation Districts, and others.