Lawmakers ask Forest Service for a timeout on new permit conditions
By Bob Berwyn
SUMMIT COUNTY —A showdown over ski area water rights is now in the political arena, as four U.S. Senators have asked the Forest Service to delay implementing a revised permit condition that could require resorts to transfer certain types of water rights to the federal government.
In a Dec. 1 letter to U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell, Colorado Senators Mark Udall and Michael Bennet, along with Senators John Barasso (R—WY) and James Risch (R-ID), asked the Forest Service to consider a moratorium on the new water rights clause.
The ski industry claims the permit conditions are a federal water grab, while Forest Service officials say the intent is to keep the water rights linked with the permitted ski area use. Read more details and background in this Summit Voice story.
In their letter, the four lawmakers said ski area operators in their state expressed concern that the water rights clause could have immediate and practical implications on ski area operations, but the letter did not spell out those concerns. According to the letter, a moratorium would give the agency a chance to assess the impacts of the clause and “allow ski areas to avoid immediate impacts to water rights …”
Contacted via email, Sen. Udall’s office was not able to specify what those immediate impacts and practical implications might be.
According to Udall’s office, “The purpose of the letter is to give both sides more time to determine WHAT that impact would be and how extensive it might be.”
Via email, Sen. Udall said, “As we say in our letter, it’s important to strike the right balance between the health and success of the ski communities in our states and the natural resources that make that success possible. We want to make sure there is time for a careful and thoughtful discussion.”
Water is a vital resource for the ski associations and for all Coloradans, Udall said. Putting the new permit language on hold would enable the Forest Service and the ski associations to gather more information and analyze the impacts of the clause.