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Old 11-13-2013   #1
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Thursday's H2O Political Showdown

US House Resolution 1389
By: Rep. Scott Tipton (R-CO 3rd District)

Co Sponsored by: Rep. Jared Polis(D-CO 2nd District)


National Ski Areas Association, Colorado Ski Country USA and the California Ski Industry Association, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association

VS.
U.S. Forest Service, Interior Department (BLM), American Whitewater, American Rivers, Sierra Club, Natural Resources Defense Council, Earth Justice and Defenders of Wildlife,





Tomorrow in the US House of Representatives...


Full article H E R E > LINK


Not completely sure on this one. I can see big impacts on both side of yes and no. Inevitably, it will get marked up so badly, that the original bill, will be yet a memory. Some bureaucrat with a pet project will be the real winner.

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Old 11-13-2013   #2
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Legislation supported by Aspen Skiing Co. could end up handcuffing the federal government's ability to require that water be left in rivers below dams with hydro power projects, according to American Rivers.

A congressional bill supported by Aspen Skiing Co. designed to protect water owned by ski areas could potentially end up hurting rivers across the country, according to American Rivers, a national river-protection organization, and a growing list of other environmental organizations.
“While House Resolution 1389’s stated intent (to help resolve a narrow conflict over water rights between the U.S. Forest Service and Colorado’s ski industry) may be legitimate, the bill is written very broadly and will have serious implications for water management across the country,” American Rivers wrote in a one-page document urging opposition to the bill.
David Corbin, Skico’s vice present of planning and development, testified on Oct. 10 in favor of HR 3189, called the Water Rights Protection Act, before a subcommittee of the House Natural Resources Committee.
“The proposed law would protect ski area water rights and provide certainty to ski areas and other water rights holders that the federal government is not going to seize these valuable property rights without compensation,” Corbin stated in his written testimony. “(U.S. Forest Service) water clauses that demand transfer of ownership of ski area water rights to the United States substantially impair the value of these ski area assets.”
Also supporting the bill, which was introduced in September by Rep. Scott Tipton (R-Cortez) in October, are the National Ski Areas Association, Colorado Ski Country USA and the California Ski Industry Association, as well special-interest groups representing agriculture, ranching and water. Other local entities in support of the bill include Garfield County and the Colorado River District.
But opposition to the bill has risen this week in advance of the bill being marked up, or potentially amended, at a committee meeting Thursday.
On Wednesday, both the U.S. Forest Service and the Interior Department issued testimony against the bill. Additionally, American Whitewater, the Sierra Club, the Natural Resources Defense Council, Earthjustice and Defenders of Wildlife, and a list of other watershed and river protection organizations are now opposing the bill.
A letter signed by 39 such organizations and submitted to the House Natural Resources Committee on Wednesday stated the bill could “prevent federal agencies from requiring protections for fish and other in-stream resources” and that, if passed, “agencies could be unable to implement reasonable requirements intended to keep water in rivers.”
On Monday, Corbin said Skico’s interest in the bill is confined to protecting water rights held by ski areas, including the four mountains operated by Skico, which together use 200 to 250 million gallons of water each winter for snowmaking.
He said American Rivers’ opposition to the bill has not altered Skico’s support of it.
“We don’t share their apprehension,” said Corbin, after reviewing materials from American Rivers expressing its opposition to the bill. “I understand their concerns, but I think they are probably overreacting.”
Corbin could not be reached for comment before publication on whether the additional round of opposition revealed on Wednesday had shifted Skico’s position.
The bill is in response to a rule issued by the Forest Service in 2011, which required ski areas to turn over their water rights to the Forest Service if they sold or transferred their federal operating permits.
The rule was successfully challenged in court by the ski industry and is now being revised by the Forest Service.
In a press release introducing his bill, Tipton referred to the “nefarious tactics” of the Forest Service. Rep. Jared Polis, a Democrat from Colorado’s 2nd District, co-sponsored HR 3189, giving it an initial bipartisan boost.
The Forest Service released testimony Wednesday in advance of Thursday’s markup session for the bill. The agency said it doesn’t think HR 3189 is necessary, as it is working on a new version of its rule concerning water rights that will “address the concerns associated with the previous ski area water rights clause.”
“We believe these changes will provide assurances to the public and communities that depend on economic activities from ski areas that they will continue to provide recreation opportunities,” the Forest Service stated. “Further, we believe that these objectives can be met without requiring the transfer of privately owned water rights to the government.”
The written testimony from the Forest Service further states “it is not in our interest or policy to take private water rights. Our interest is in sustaining skiing as a recreation opportunity on National Forest System lands now and in the future.”
The Forest Service also raises concerns about its ability to effectively transfer grazing permits if the bill is passed as is.
The Interior Department, which includes the BLM, also released testimony on Wednesday, stating that “the legislation is overly broad and could have numerous unintended consequences.”
The National Ski Areas Association welcomed the Forest Service’s conciliatory language regarding the issue of ski area water rights, but still wants to see the Water Rights Protection Act passed.
“HR 3189 would not hinder the agency’s new approach to water policy,” said Geraldine Link, the director of public policy for the Ski Areas Association, in an email. “The new (Forest Service) policy is expected to require ski areas to offer an option to purchase water rights at fair market value to the successor owner of a ski area. (And) the bill prohibits a forced transfer of property to the US.”
Groups such as the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and the Public Lands Council support HR 3189, and view it as a way to protect their industry’s water rights.
“The USFS is attempting to acquire water rights for the federal government as a condition of issuing standard land use permits,” the Beef Association stated in its October review of HR 3189 and other federal legislation, entitled “Beltway Beef.” “The Forest Service, however, has failed to provide just compensation — a violation of the Fifth Amendment.”
American Rivers says the hydropower industry and “big western agriculture” are driving the bill, ostensibly written to protect the ski industry, in an effort to “handcuff” the Interior and Agricultural departments and “prevent them from protecting rivers and public lands,” according to a memo on the bill.
Matt Rice, the director of conservation in Colorado for American Rivers, said the group’s opposition to HR 3189 is based on language in the bill that would prohibit “impairment of any water right” by federal agencies under the jurisdiction of either the Interior or Agriculture departments.
Rice said such agencies sometimes require mitigation for hydropower projects that are ultimately licensed by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, or FERC. The mitigation, for example, might require that hydropower developers leave some water in a river or in a fish passage structure.
Such a requirement, or mandate, from FERC or an associated federal or state agency, could be considered an “impairment” of a water right by the hydropower industry, according to Rice.
“The hydropower industry has long opposed mandatory conditions at hydropower facilities,” a memo from American River states. It adds that “HR 3189’s broad scope appears to comprise a ‘backdoor’ attack’ on these authorities.”
Skico’s Corbin pointed out that the “impairment” language is only in the preamble to the bill.
“We don’t feel nearly as anxious as American Rivers does about that word ‘impairment,’” Corbin said. “It’s an imprecise word.”
But the imprecision of the phrase “impairment of any water right” is exactly what worries American Rivers.
“The offending phrase is descriptive of the intent and impact of the bill,” said Matt Niemerski, the national water policy director for American Rivers.


Aspen Journalism is an independent nonprofit news organization working in the local public interest. More at Aspen Journalism | Local. Nonprofit. Investigative..
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Old 11-14-2013   #3
 
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Thank you for sharing, I wasn't aware this was going on. Sounds like a complicated situation. I don't agree with the government taking any right away from anyone, including a water right which is sort of like stealing a possession.... but on the other side of the coin I am not at all in favor of snow making operations. Seems to me if a ski area is located where they don't get sufficient snow to operate, then they should go out of business. I remember Breckenridge draining the Blue dry at the beginning of last winter after the drought. Killed a lot of fish so they could open on time.... it was within their legal water right, but it wasn't "right" in my opinion.
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Old 11-14-2013   #4
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lmyers View Post
Thank you for sharing, I wasn't aware this was going on. Sounds like a complicated situation. I don't agree with the government taking any right away from anyone, including a water right which is sort of like stealing a possession.... but on the other side of the coin I am not at all in favor of snow making operations. Seems to me if a ski area is located where they don't get sufficient snow to operate, then they should go out of business. I remember Breckenridge draining the Blue dry at the beginning of last winter after the drought. Killed a lot of fish so they could open on time.... it was within their legal water right, but it wasn't "right" in my opinion.
Complicated for sure. Ski areas are economic powerhouses despite a lack of sustainability. Thus, they get preferential treatment for short term gain. What I worry about the most, as hinted to by the OP, is the way the campaign financiers use their influence to gain a sweet deal in legislation like this. To me, that's just as tragic as wonton ecological destruction.
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Old 11-14-2013   #5
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After I posted this last night, I tried to do more research on the bill, but have come up short. I did send a few tweets to Pollis and Tipton and wrote their respective offices to say that I am not only confused by the bill, but that I would like to delay any markup on the bill until after a public input period. The only way to fully understand this is FULL DISCLOSURE by the bill writers and backers, including our "Environmentally Friendly" Aspen Ski Co. Its the pork and private interests that I worry about, trying to take "western gold" for their own benefit and fat pockets. No worries for the stream bed, fish and navigable corridor.

Kidna bummed on the buzz for not having that much response.
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Old 11-14-2013   #6
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x2 thanks for sharing. I had no idea. I dont know what else to say except every conscientious buzzard should be a member of American Whitewater....help fund them to keep up the fight for River conservation.... $35 bucks a year is not hard...
stupid politicians and special interests. :[
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Old 11-16-2013   #7
 
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bump

“Our interest is not in taking the water right but in assuring that a necessary amount of water is available so that skiing can contribute to be an important recreation opportunity in the national forests,” the Forest Service said in a statement released Wednesday. “We believe that these objectives can be met without requiring the transfer of privately owned water rights to the government.”

Aspen Skiing Co. still backing water rights bill opposed by river groups | AspenTimes.com
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Old 11-25-2013   #8
 
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The ski areas buy a lease.

If they have that lease, and sell it to another, the person they are leasing from has the right to make new requirements of the new renter.

I don't see that as excessive. I do understand that the ski area operator will not like this. They look at their lease as a property they own and can sell as they see fit. Any control enforced by the original owner hinders that. Here, you and I are their landlords. The forest service is in charge of policing and stewarding their use of our land on our behalf. The forest service saying we don't want to grant unchecked water rights to the ski industry causes the renters concern. The Forset Service has to balance competing interest of fish kills and minimum flows required by the EPA with their leases of federal land. It really is a cluster to try to figure what is right here. I'm not calling anyone until I see and understand the final legislation.
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