Radical anti-environmental GOP leaders seek to privatize water
By Bob Berwyn
FRISCO — Anti-environmental House Republicans are at it again, this time trying to pull of one of the greatest heists of all time by passing a law that would ban agencies like the National Park Service and the Forest Service from exerting any control over water flowing off federal lands.
House Resolution 3189, the so-called Water Rights Protection Act, wouldn’t actually protect any water; instead, it would open the door for more private development of water for fracking and urban development by prohibiting “the conditioning of any permit, lease or any other use agreement on the transfer, relinquishment, or other impairment of any water right to the United States by the Secretaries of the Interior and Agriculture.”
“It’s so broadly written that it’s really dangerous,” said Gary Wockner, campaign coordinator for Save the Colorado.
Federal agencies try to maintain flows for the benefit of the environment and for recreation. As written, the bill could prevent the Forest Service from establishing minimum bypass flows when the agency issues a permit for a diversion.
The bill is scheduled to be marked up in the House Natural Resources Committee Nov. 14. But those sneaky GOP anti-environmental House leaders held a hearing during the government shutdown, timed so that the affected federal agencies could not provide testimony.
“This bill would gut the federal government’s ability to protect and restore rivers across the Colorado River basin, including those from which water is diverted to support skiing,” Wockner said.
“The bill would force federal agencies to put private uses of river water ahead of other beneficial public uses like fish, wildlife, and recreation,” said Matt Rice, Colorado River director for D.C.-based American Rivers. “The ski industry needs to change direction – this bill undercuts other recreational and environmental uses and if enacted would permanently impair the public’s waterways.”
Conservation and recreation groups are asking the Natural Resources Committee not to markup the bill, but instead to hold a full and complete hearing where federal agencies and members of the public are allowed to testify to the negative impacts this bill would have on America’s waterways.
A U.S. Department of Interior letter to the House Natural Resources Committee cites the potential “damage and disruption that privately held water rights could cause to park resources and operations,” and described the bill as an overly broad measure that could ” have numerous unintended consequences that could affect existing law and voluntary agreements.”