Sunday, December 23, 2012

Judge sides with ski areas, rejects Forest Service water rights rule

A U.S. District judge on Wednesday overturned a controversial new water law requiring ski area permit holders on public land to turn over water rights to the Forest Service. Judge William Martinez ruled that the Forest Service's revision of 2011 and 2012 permit regulations governing water rights violated federal procedural rules, failed to evaluate economic impact and violated ski area rights. Martinez sided with the National Ski Areas Association, which was suing the Forest Service over the new water rights permit rules, ordering the agency to not enforce the terms of the new rules. Martinez remanded the issue back to the Forest Service. The Forest Service argued that the new clause - which required ski area permit holders to transfer water rights secured by areas operating on public land to the federal government - kept the natural resource connected to the land. In mid-November oral arguments before Martinez, the Forest Service argued it merely returned permit water policy to long-held conditions imposed before a 2004 change in the rules. Still, Martinez's ruling noted that during the last three decades, the Forest Service "did not follow a uniform policy and did not require federal ownership of water rights in all ski area permits." The agency said it changed the permit requirements to assure that ski areas never sold water rights connected to federal land...more

Depending on what the judge actually said, this could have wide implications.  For instance, requiring water or access as a condition of a grazing permit. 

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