Thursday, April 18, 2013

Forest Service begins public review of ski area water rights rules

The Forest Service on this week launched the first of several public meetings and forums as it outlines a contentious push to secure water rights used by ski areas on public land. "There is a fundamental difference of opinion that will be hard to overcome," said Jim Pena, the Forest Service's acting deputy chief, acknowledging ski area opposition to the agency plan to revamp permits with new regulations addressing the ownership of water rights. Tuesday's meetings — billed as "listening sessions" by the Forest Service — are a first step in a court-ordered process. A U.S. District Judge in December sided with ski areas and overturned the Forest Service water clause, ruling the agency violated federal rule-making procedures. The judge required the agency to vet the new plan with more public input. (The same court on Tuesday ordered the Forest Service to pay the NSAA $125,000 in attorney fees incurred in the water-rights lawsuit.) "Taxpayer dollars are being used in defense of an unlawful federal water grab," Link said...more

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