Is the ski industry green? Not if it supports drying up rivers


ski-billH.R. 3189 would allow private water users to dry up rivers with impunity | © dalioPhot

In his recent Grist article, Greg Hanscom writes about actions the ski industry is taking to combat climate change. He examines the lobbying muscle of the National Ski Areas Association and looks at the issues the industry group is pushing in Congress.

Unfortunately, he fails to mention the most significant piece of legislation the NSAA is supporting, the bill that NSAA has put the most lobbying effort behind and which should beyond a shadow of a doubt call into question the industry’s commitment to environmental sustainability.

The NSAA and ski areas like Aspen have joined with lobbyists from Big Ag-the Farm Bureau and the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, to push H.R. 3189, the so-called “Water Rights Protection Act,” which would harm rivers, fish and wildlife nationwide. It was introduced by Representatives Scott Tipton (R-CO) and Jared Polis (D-CO) and will receive a vote on the House floor next week.

The bill is being sold as a narrow fix to a dispute between a Colorado ski area and the Forest Service. But it would have sweeping impacts on rivers in the West and nationwide — preventing federal agencies from doing their job to safeguard rivers, fish and wildlife.

The bill would impact all kinds of river restoration efforts. It basically lets private water users dry up rivers with impunity. The bill could stop the Fish and Wildlife Service from requiring flows that help salmon find fish ladders so that they can safely pass over dams. It could prohibit the Forest Service from requiring water diverters to leave some water in streams on National Forests to keep native cutthroat trout alive. It would potentially destroy broadly supported multi-year and multi-million dollar settlement agreements — such as the ones on the Klamath and San Joaquin rivers — to restore salmon and steelhead fisheries at hydropower facilities. It would even set back efforts to restore the Chesapeake Bay.

It would go so far as to undermine fundamental principles of states’ rights by creating a new federal definition of a water right. At the very least, it would create mountains and mountains of litigation.

When the House Natural Resources Committee marked up the bill back in November, more than 60 local, state and national environmental, recreation, and sportsmen’s groups wrote letters in opposition to this terrible bill. But NSAA’s lobbyists doubled down, demanding that the bill be enacted into law, with no changes to protect endangered species and your right to enjoy our nation’s rivers.

Many individual ski areas are doing a lot to reduce their carbon footprints and promote public appreciation of the surrounding environment. That’s why we don’t understand why they would sit on the sidelines as the NSAA promotes a bill that could dry up our rivers and give the ski industry a black eye.

Update, 3/11/2014: The House is expected to vote on this bill on Thursday, March 13th. Please take a moment to contact your representative!

2 Responses to “Is the ski industry green? Not if it supports drying up rivers”

Robert Krumwiede

Water Rights Protection must focus on the rights of everyone to have water that is of good quality and that sustains the environment we live in. “Rights” to water cannot be focused on certain segments of the population and certain business interests at the expense of the broader population and environment.

Robert Krumwiede

Water Rights Protection must focus on the rights of everyone to have water that is of good quality and that sustains the environment we live in. “Rights” to water cannot be focused on certain segments of the population and certain business interests at the expense of the broader population and environment.