Environment | Law | Politics

White House cites threat to tribes in opposing water rights bill





The White House is opposing H.R.3189, the Water Rights Protection Act, citing a threat to tribal rights.

The bill bars the Interior Department and the Agriculture Department from acquiring or controlling water rights on federal lands. The Office of Management and Budget said the measure was written so broadly that it could prevent the federal government from acting as a trustee for tribal water resources.

"The bill threatens the federal government's longstanding authority to manage property and claim proprietary rights for the benefit of Indian tribes and reserved federal lands, and the broader public that depends on the proper management of public lands and resources," the OMB said in a statement of administration policy.

The statement was issued because the bill is due for a vote today on the House floor. Debate is expected to start around noon, according to the House Majority Leader's schedule.

The bill was written to address concerns raised by the ski industry, which often leases public lands for commercial operations. The White House said the USDA will be proposing a new regulation to replace one that was struck down in court.

"The administration looks forward to working with Congress to address any remaining concerns regarding the ski area water rights proposal after its publication and to developing legislation that maintains the federal government's interest in protecting public lands and waters, allows for the continuance of voluntary agreements between the federal government and other water rights holders, and ensures adequate protection of the environment," the OMB said.

Get the Story:
Bill to decouple water rights from ski-area permits hits House floor (The Denver Post 3/12)
Water rights bill exceeds needs of ski industry (The Bozeman Daily Chronicle 3/12)