Aspen's congressman requests Capitol Hill hearing to examine water rules in the West

By Troy Hooper
Real AspenFebruary 1, 2012

As part of a sustained effort to thin the federal government's powers to protect the environment, Third District Colorado Republican Congressman Scott Tipton is requesting a Capitol Hill hearing to examine water storage rules in the West.

“The uncertainties of annual water availability can imperil those communities which are hindered by an unwieldy regulatory framework that hinders the ability to store water for vital purposes,” Tipton wrote in a letter to Natural Resources Water and Power Subcommittee Chairman Tom McClintock this week.

U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton

“Through prudent supply management and the ability to store much needed water, communities can support jobs that depend on the availability of water, protect food security, control flooding, ensure continued recreation opportunities, provide water for the development of hydropower, and meet environmental protection needs," the Jan. 24 letter (pdf) continued.

"Among the immediate concerns regarding water storage is this year’s relatively low snow pack levels in Colorado. Streamlining the regulatory permitting process can help better prepare those communities that rely on snow pack to support local economies."

Last fall, Tipton introduced H.R. 2842, the Bureau of Reclamation Small Conduit Hydropower Development and Rural Jobs Act, which has been criticized by the conservation director at American Rivers as “another example of Republican House members looking for any way they can to attack this nation’s bedrock environmental laws and regulations.”

The congressman from Cortez is also a vocal opponent of a new U.S. Forest Service permit condition that requires the transfer of privately held water rights to the federal government. That dispute is headed to court now that the National Ski Areas Association is suing the Forest Service.

Tipton, who is routinely bashed for his attacks on the environment, is widely considered one of the more vulnerable congressional incumbents. A recent poll showed only 36 percent of voters in his district approve of the job he is doing. He is being challenged by Democratic state Rep. Sal Pace.

“I don’t think he is terribly concerned about our natural habitat and our natural environment and that has pretty severe effects on our economies,” Pace said in a previous interview. “If Scott Tipton has his way and if his policies were to become law, communities like Gunnison or Steamboat that depend on recreation and tourism — which includes having clean water to raft in and beautiful mountains to ski on and an outstanding outdoors environment for people to mountain bike in — would be at risk.”

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