GLENWOOD SPRINGS — Garfield County commissioners lent their support Monday to a bipartisan bill aimed at protecting private water rights for those seeking to obtain permits for use of federal lands.
The proposed Water Rights Protection Act, introduced as H.R. 3189 in late September by 3rd District U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Cortez, also has two Democratic co-sponsors including Colorado’s 2nd District Congressman, Jared Polis. The other is Utah Congressman, Rep. Jim Matheson.
The bill, if passed, would prohibit the U.S. Forest Service and BLM from conditioning permits on the transfer or relinquishment of privately held water rights, or requiring water users to apply for a water right in the name of the U.S. government, instead of the purchaser, as a condition of the permit approval.
In doing so, “Federal land management agencies are using coercion to acquire private water rights,” according to a resolution recently passed by the governing board of Associated Governments of Northwest Colorado (AGNC).
“These and related actions constitute a federal taking of private property without just compensation,” the AGNC resolution states.
Garfield County Commissioner Mike Samson said during Monday’s regular commissioners meeting that it’s important for the county, as an AGNC member, to lend its individual support to the bill also.
“This is one piece of legislation where both Republicans and Democrats are united,” Samson said.
Added Commissioner Tom Jankovsky in support of sending a separate county resolution, “This has to do with an overreaching of the federal government, and we should get behind (the bill).”
According to the AGNC resolution, the practice of asking permittees to give up water rights violates state water law, and, “these actions have already had a negative impact on local ski businesses, which are important contributors to our regional economy.”
Municipal, agricultural and energy-related operations that have water storage facilities similar to ski resorts could also be negatively impacted, it said.
Tipton’s bill “would protect communities, businesses, family farms and other stakeholders in northwest Colorado that rely on privately held water rights from having these property rights taken by an agency of the federal government,” the resolution concludes.