Rep. Scott Tipton blows whistle on water rights

News
Nov 11, 2011
by WLJ

Rep. Scott Tipton, R-CO, is taking a stand for private property rights by urging USDA to reconsider implementing a permit condition to require the transfer of privately held water rights to the federal government in order to utilize National Forest System lands. Tipton expressed concern over the impact the requirement would have on water rights held by ski areas and ranchers.

Earlier this month, Tipton requested that Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack not allow the U.S. Forest Service to require the transfer of ownership of privately held water rights to the name of the U.S.

This would be considered a taking of property rights from Colorado water right holders, according to the Colorado Cattlemen’s Association (CCA).

“I have concerns with this requirement and the policies that underlie it, particularly to the extent that such water rights predate the creation of the Forest Service, in the case of grazing permits,” stated Tipton.

In the letter to Vilsack, Tipton writes, “Water rights established under state law are property rights for purposes of the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution. Congress has not delegated to the Forest Service the authority to require permittees to transfer ownership of water rights to the United States as a permit condition.”

According to the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, water rights established under state law are property rights.

The Report of the Federal Water Rights Task Force created pursuant to Section 389(D)(3) of P.L. 104-127 expressly concluded that:

“Congress has not delegated to the Forest Service the authority necessary to allow it to require that water users relinquish a part of their existing water supply or transfer their water rights to the United States as a condition of the grant or renewal of federal permits.”

“I have serious concerns that the agency intends to depart from this longstanding policy by virtue of its recent permitting decisions and related policies,” Tipton´s letter stated. — WLJ

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