Effective management of water resources affects the vitality of communities and their ability to grow and develop. Respect for water rights is a central element in the management of water resources. I have been a long-time opponent of federal agencies that erode state water rights practices. I have drafted and introduced laws in several congresses to prevent federal encroachment on the management of water resources, better controlled at the state and local levels. I again support legislation in this Congress to protect the private property rights of farmers, ranchers, states, cities, and local conservation efforts from trampling by the federal government.
The federal government has long tried to take control of private water rights, undermining state water laws across the West, including Idaho. Forcing multiple-use licensees to cede private water rights to the federal government as a condition of license renewal is one way of exercising federal control over water resources. The Clean Water Act, Federal Land Policy Management Act, and wilderness designations have also been vehicles used to attempt to erode state sovereignty over water.
Another of the more recent examples of federal overshoot putting this essential resource at risk is the Obama-era Rule on United States Waters (WOTUS) which was nothing less than a federal government takeover. and seizure of state and private property rights. Under the WOTUS rule, even dry creek beds and ponds on private property could fall under the control of the federal government, under rules that used the propagation of rainwater. The Trump administration has removed this rule and replaced it with the Navigable Waters Protection Rule. The United States Supreme Court has ruled that ânavigable watersâ can be regulated, but ânavigable watersâ does not include irrigation ditches and small streams on private property. I co-sponsored a resolution from this Congress supporting the Trump administration’s finalized Navigable Waters Protection Rule that regulates “navigable” waters within federal limits, and will continue to oppose any attempt by the administration and of current Congress to undermine state sovereignty over water.
To continue this effort as well, in March, I joined my fellow U.S. Senators Jim Risch (R-Idaho) and John Barrasso (R-Wyoming) in introducing S. 855, the Water Rights Protection Act, to protect private waters. against seizure. by the federal government. The Law on the Protection of Water Rights:
Prohibit the United States Department of Interior and Agriculture from forcing water users to transfer water rights to the United States or purchase water rights on behalf of the United States as a condition of any license, lease or other use agreement;
Prevent illegal seizures of groundwater; and
Recognize national water legislation and require coordination with states.
The Water Rights Protection Act has been referred to the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. Senator Barrasso is the ranking member of the committee and Senator Risch is a senior member of the committee.
Unfortunately, we must always be alert to attempts by federal agencies and some members of Congress to ignore long-established statutory provisions regarding state water rights and state water contracts. The Water Rights Protection Act will help protect private property rights, enforce national water laws, and ban federal withdrawals. I look forward to working towards its enactment that will protect this critical Idaho resource and uphold the core Western value of state water sovereignty.