Press Releases

Simpson Votes to Protect Water Rights from Federal Overreach

House passes legislation preventing agencies from hijacking water rights through land use permitting

Washington, March 13, 2014
Idaho Congressman Mike Simpson today supported legislation passed by the House of Representatives to protect water rights against overreach by the federal government.  Simpson is a cosponsor of H.R. 3189, the Water Rights Protection Act, which prohibits agencies from requiring the transfer of privately-held water rights to the federal government in order to obtain a permit to use federal land.  The House passed the bill by a vote of 238-174.

In a number of recent cases, the U.S. Forest Service has attempted to circumvent state water law by requiring those applying for a permit from the agency to turn over their privately-held water rights to the federal government.  H.R. 3189 would protect both privately-held water rights and state water laws by prohibiting federal water takings.  Simpson included a similar provision in the House Interior and Environment Appropriations bill for FY14 when he chaired the subcommittee.  Unfortunately, the U.S. Senate blocked that language from the final bill.

“The Forest Service has no authority to force someone to hand state-issued and privately-held water-rights to the federal government,” said Simpson.  “In Idaho, threatening water rights is basically an attack on our way of life, and I won’t stand for the federal government trying to hijack water rights as a condition for issuing a permit.  If there was ever an argument for the supremacy of state water law, this is it, and I am pleased that the House has made this point by passing H.R. 3189.”

H.R. 3189 is now under consideration by the U.S. Senate.