CONGRESSWOMAN ELISE STEFANIK
On Tuesday, April 24, 2012, the House is scheduled to consider H.R. 2050, the Idaho Wilderness Water Resources Protection Act, under a suspension of the rules requiring a two-thirds majority for approval. The bill was introduced on May 26, 2011, by Rep. Michael Simpson (R-ID) and referred to the committee on Natural Resources, which held a mark up and reported the bill by voice vote on February 29, 2012.
H.R. 2050 would require the Secretary of Agriculture to authorize the continued use and maintenance of certain water diversions located on National Forest System land in the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness and the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness in the State of Idaho. In order to be eligible for a permit under the legislation, the facility or equipment would have to have been in existence prior to the land being designated as wilderness and must have been in continuous operation to deliver water to landowners’ non-federal land since the wilderness designation; the landowner must hold a valid water-use right under Idaho state law; and it must be determined that it is not practicable to relocate the facility outside of the wilderness areas. According to the Forest Service, any costs to process the permits would be paid by the permit holders.
According to Committee Report 112-437, there are a number of water diversions within Idaho wilderness areas that predate its wilderness designation. Although the diversions continue to exist, owners lack authority to maintain and repair the facilities, which in some cases threaten the environment and watersheds. Providing this authority will ensure that existing water diversions can be properly maintained and repaired when necessary and preserves beneficial use for private property owners who hold water rights under state law. Subject to certain criteria, H.R. 2050 requires the U.S. Forest Service to issue special use maintenance permits to owners of certain existing water systems within the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness and the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness in Idaho.
According to CBO, enacting H.R. 2050 would have no significant impact on revenue or future budget deficits.