When It Comes to Protecting Rivers, Who Do you Trust?
Today, the House will vote on H.R. 3189, the so-called “Water Rights Protection Act.” The bill would dry up stretches of rivers and harm river restoration efforts nationwide.
The National Ski Areas Association and Aspen’s SkiCo are pushing the bill, along with the Farm Bureau, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, Colorado Petroleum Association, and the Colorado Oil and Gas Association. In a nutshell, the bill would prevent federal agencies from doing their job to safeguard rivers, fish and wildlife.
The NSAA claims the bill would have no impact on stream health [PDF]. But the fact is, the United States Forest Service, the Department of the Interior, and the President of the United States have all declared opposition to this bill [PDF] precisely because it will harm stream health.
Ninety conservation, recreation, and sportsmen’s groups and businesses – including the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, League of Conservation Voters, Trout Unlimited, American Whitewater, Appalachian Mountain Club, Hydropower Reform Coalition, and OARS – oppose the bill because it will harm rivers and streams.
Who do you trust about whether or not this bill is bad for rivers? These ninety groups who care about protecting rivers and the agencies tasked with protecting rivers? Or the NSAA which has allied itself with Oil and Gas and the Farm Bureau, groups that are hardly known as stalwart defenders of natural resources?
Yesterday in the House Rules Committee, Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO), who used to support this bill, denounced it as a “job killer” because of the impact it would have on river health. And he correctly pointed out that several of the counties where some of the largest Colorado ski operations are located, including Pitkin County (home of Aspen SkiCo) oppose the bill because of the impact it would have on river health.
NSAA has also been promoting the fact that 80 percent of snow-making water goes back to the watershed. That’s all the more reason that Congress shouldn’t pass legislation making it easier for ski resorts to sell their water to trans-basin diverters or hydrofrackers for buy and dry schemes.