“Water is the lifeblood in communities throughout Utah, and this common-sense bill simply ensures our farmers and ranchers are not forced to give up their private property rights without fair compensation,” Hatch said. “Requiring private individuals to turn over their privately owned water rights to the federal government would hurt Utah’s economy and give the Washington more authority over Utahns, and I’m going to work hard to stop it.”
The Water Rights Protection Act specifically prohibits the Secretary of the Interior and the Secretary of Agriculture from requiring the transfer of privately held water rights to the federal government as a condition of a special use permit, lease or other land use arrangement.
In addition to Hatch and Barrasso, Senators Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), Dean Heller (R-Nev.), Mike Lee (R-Utah) are co-sponsors of the Water Rights Protection Act.
In 2011, the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) attempted to implement a water clause for ski area permit holders that required ski areas to turn over privately held water rights without compensation in order to receive a renewed USFS land permit. On December 19, 2012 a federal district court in Colorado struck down the USFS’s water clause.
Now, the USFS is trying once again to implement this controversial policy through a revised water clause. If the USFS is allowed to move forward with this policy, it will open the door for other federal agencies like the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to implement a similar policy for grazing permits and other multiple use activity that requires a federal land use permit and involves the use of water.
The Water Rights Protection Act protects privately held water rights, prohibits federal takings, and upholds state water law by:
• Prohibiting 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;
• Prohibiting the Secretary of the Interior and the Secretary of Agriculture from requiring water users to acquire rights for the United States rather than for the water user themselves;
• Upholding longstanding federal deference to state water law.