H.R. 876: Idaho Wilderness Water Resources Protection Act

H.R. 876

Idaho Wilderness Water Resources Protection Act

June 17, 2013 (113th Congress, 1st Session)

Staff Contact

Floor Situation

On Monday, June 17, 2013, the House will consider H.R. 876, the Idaho Wilderness Water Resources Protection Act,under a suspension of the rules. The bill was introduced on February 27, 2013 by Rep. Michael Simpson (R-ID) and referred to the Committee on Natural Resources, which held a mark-up and reported the bill by unanimous consent.

Bill Summary

H.R. 876 directs the Secretary of Agriculture to issue special use permits to owners of water storage, transport, or diversion facilities located within the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness and the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness in Idaho for the purpose of operation, maintenance and reconstruction if the following conditions are met:

  1. The facility existed prior to the area being designated wilderness
  2. The facility has been used relatively continuously
  3. The owner holds a valid water right for his non-Federal land
  4. It is not practicable or feasible to move the facility outside of wilderness land and still be of beneficial use.

Further, H.R. 876 directs the Secretary to allow the use of motorized vehicles in order to maintain, operate or reconstruct a facility.  The bill also allows the Secretary to require the facility to be modified, and to require a reciprocal right of access across the owner’s non-Federal property to be compensated at market value by the Secretary. 


There are many water diversions in Idaho wilderness areas that predate the wilderness designation.[1]  Most of these diversions are used primarily to support agriculture or minor hydropower generation.  Since the area was designated wilderness, however, the owners have been unable to maintain or fix the diversion facilities, which in some cases threatens the environment and watersheds.

H.R. 876 provides the owners the authority to ensure that existing water diversions can be properly maintained and repaired when necessary.  Similar legislation passed the House in the 112thCongress on April 26, 2012 by voice vote.

[1] See Committee Report 113-76.



CBO estimates that, “[b]ecause enacting the legislation would affect net direct spending (through the collection and spending of receipts), pay-as-you-go procedures apply; however, CBO estimates that such effects would be insignificant. Enacting the legislation would not affect revenues.”[1]