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Hearing Focuses on Bills to Protect Property Rights, Increase Federal Transparency


WASHINGTON, D.C., May 18, 2017 -

Today, the Subcommittee on Water, Power and Oceans held a legislative hearing on two bills to increase federal transparency, safeguard private and state water rights, and provide certainty to water and power users.      

The “Water Rights Protection Act” discussion draft (Rep. Scott Tipton, R-CO) protects state water law and private property rights from future federal takings.

Private water rights holders should not live in fear of the federal government coming after them. Mr. Tipton’s bill is necessary to ensure that privately held water rights cannot be extracted by the federal government in the future as a condition to secure a federal permit,Subcommittee Chairman Doug Lamborn (R-CO) said.  

Over many decades, federal attempts to manipulate the federal permit, lease and land management process to circumvent long-established state water law and hijack privately-held water rights have sounded the alarm for all non-federal water users that rely on these water rights for their livelihood. The Water Rights Protection Act is commonsense legislation that provides certainty by upholding longstanding federal deference to state water law,Rep. Tipton stated.

Vice President of the Utah Farm Bureau Randy Parker discussed the water rights issues he sees on the ground everyday as the U.S. Forest Service (FS) and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) “systematically challeng[e] state sovereignty and historically held water rights on public lands.”

The ongoing protests, claims, coercion and even bullying by agents of the FS and the BLM has created and continues to cause considerable uncertainty for ranching families across the West,” Parker said.

Chris Treese, Manager for External Affairs at the Colorado River Water Conservation District, urged swift passage of the “Water Rights Protection Act” to avoid the inevitable downward spiral of litigation.

Unless the FS commits to respecting Western states’ individual water rights adjudication systems to accomplish its flow-related goals, the only sure outcome is contentious, lengthy and expensive litigation. This is a result in no one’s interest, including the environment,” Treese stated.

H.R. 2371 (Rep. Paul Gosar, R-AZ), the “Western Area Power Administration Transparency Act,” establishes a pilot project to increase the transparency of the Western Area Power Administration’s (WAPA) costs, rates, and other financial and operational dealings for utility ratepayers and taxpayers. Patrick Ledger, CEO of the Arizona Electric Power Cooperative, welcomed the transparency and accountability promoted by this bill in light of the recent trend of increased utility rates.

With better information broken down in key components – and with a historical perspective – customers can have a better dialogue with [WAPA],” Ledger said.This is perhaps the most fundamental benefit that the transparency legislation offers.”

Click here to view full witness testimony. 


Contact: Committee Press Office 202-226-9019

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