Last month, Doug Kemper, Executive Director and Emily Brumit, Water Policy Analyst, traveled to Washington D.C. to deliver the annual Colorado Water Issues Briefing to the Colorado Delegation and staff on April 14th. The briefing included a review of the Federal Affairs Committee 2015 Priorities which include but are not limited to Waters of the United States, Ski Area Water Rights Rule/Legislation, Federal Agency Land Use Planning and Management, USFS Groundwater Directive, Drought and Fire Preparedness and Mitigation, etc. The congressional briefing also included status updates on various water projects around the state such as Windy Gap Firming Project, Northern Integrated Supply Project, Arkansas Valley Conduit, and Southern Delivery System.
H.R. 2028 Fiscal Year 2016 Energy and Water Appropriations BillRep. Mike Simpson, R-ID-02Last Friday, May 1st, the United States House of Representatives passed H.R. 2028, the FY 2016 Energy and Water Appropriations bill with a bi-partisan vote of 240-177. The bill is sponsored primarily by Congressman Mike Simpson, representing Idaho’s second congressional district. A rider attached to the bill, at the urging of a letter led by Western Caucus Vice Chairman Paul Gosar (R-AZ-04), prohibits implementation or enforcement of the EPA’s Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule. The WOTUS rule, an unprecedented federal seizure of state waters and private water rights, would centralize at the federal level jurisdiction over streams, ponds, and other waters currently regulated by the states.
Sections 104 and 105 of H.R.2028 would prevent the Army Corps of Engineers from using any funds allocated in the bill to develop, adopt, implement, administer, or enforce any change to the regulations in effect on October 1, 2012, pertaining to the definitions of the terms “fill material” or “discharge of fill material” for the purposes of the Federal Water Pollution Control Act, or pertaining to the definition of waters under the jurisdiction of the Federal Water Pollution Control Act (33 U.S.C. 1251 et seq.).
There were two amendments offered on the House floor during voting, both included the removal of Sections 104 and 105, and were rejected by a majority voice vote. This show of solidarity further strengthens the evident importance of state control of privately held water and property rights.
Despite a veto threat from The White House, the bill is on its way to the Senate where it will hopefully pass through, if for nothing more than an illustration of state sovereignty over water management and rights. If enacted, H.R. 2028 would result in discretionary budget authority of $35.4 billion. The Colorado Water Congress is in full support of H.R. 2028.
H.R. 1732 Regulatory Integrity Protection Act of 2015Rep. Bill Shuster, R-PA-09Fully supported by the Colorado Water Congress, H.R. 1732 is designed to preserve existing rights and responsibilities with respect to waters of the United States. If passed, the legislation would require the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) to withdraw the proposed rule published in the Federal Register on April 21, 2014, that defines the scope of waters protected by the Clean Water Act (CWA). Under the CWA, EPA and the Corps, along with the states, serve as co-regulators of activities affecting the nation’s waters. The bill, as introduced is assigned to the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure.
Section 3 of the bill provides guidelines for the development of any future rules regarding waters protected under the CWA, focusing heavily on consideration of public comment on economic analysis, the report entitled “Connectivity of Streams & Wetlands to Downstream Waters: A Review & Synthesis of Scientific-Evidence” (EPA/600/R-14/475F; January 2015), and most notably, the advice and recommendations made by State and local officials, stakeholders, and other interested parties, and allowing for meaningful and timely input by said officials and parties.
H.R. 1830 Water Rights Protection ActRep. Scott Tipton, R-CO-03The Colorado Water Congress is in full support of Colorado Congressman Scott Tipton’s Water Rights Protection Act. The bill is designed to prohibit the conditioning of any permit, lease, or other use agreement on the transfer of any water right to the United States by the Secretaries of the Interior and Agriculture, and to require the Secretaries of the Interior and Agriculture to develop water planning instruments consistent with State law.
The bill also clarifies the definition of a “water right”, deeming it any surface or groundwater right filed, permitted, certified, confirmed, decreed, adjudicated, or otherwise recognized by a judicial proceeding or by the State in which the user acquires possession of the water or puts the water to beneficial use, including water rights for federally recognized Indian tribes. The bill, in its introduced form, is assigned to the Subcommittee on Conservation and Forestry.
H.R. 695 Healthy Forest Management and Wildfire Protection ActRep. Scott Tipton, R-CO-03This bill is drafted to address the bark beetle epidemic, drought, deteriorating forest health conditions, and high risk of wildfires on National Forest System land and land under the jurisdiction of the Bureau of Land Management by expanding authorities established in the Healthy Forest Restoration Act of 2003 to provide emergency measures for high-risk areas identified by such States.
The Colorado Water Congress is in full support of this legislation, as Colorado’s forest lands provide water supplies for agriculture, municipal, industrial, recreational and environmental uses. Furthermore, as a headwaters state, Colorado water, originating in our forests, flows through 18 other states. Our national forest lands are once again being recognized as a critical watershed for the entire nation’s water supplies, just as they were when distinguished in the Forest Reserve Act of 1891 and subsequently with the organic act for the National Forest Service in 1905. H.R. 695 illustrates a clear goal of facilitating and expediting treatments to prevent wildfires in beetle-infested forests, a keystone to protecting water flowing from Colorado’s forests.
S 1036 Sage-Grouse Protection and Conservation ActSen. Cory Gardner, R-CO-04Supported by the Colorado Water Congress, the Sage-Grouse Protection and Conservation Act is designed to allow states to implement state-created conservation and management plans for the recovery of greater sage-grouse in order to prevent a listing under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) in September 2015. The Sage-Grouse Protection and Conservation Act will keep pressure on states, federal agencies, and stakeholders to continue implementation of conservation and management plans, continue investments to conserve, protect, and enhance greater sage-grouse populations, and protect and restore greater sage-grouse habitat. If passed, this bill will not be a mandate; a state may choose to defer to federal agencies for greater sage-grouse protection.