Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senators Jim Risch and Mike Crapo with Congressman Mike Simpson, today praised passage of a bill authored by Simpson to permit existing water diversions in Idaho wilderness areas. The Idaho Wilderness Water Resources Protection Act was passed unanimously by the full United States Senate.
There are a number of water diversions in both the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness and the Selway-Bitteroot Wilderness areas that have existed since before the wilderness areas were established. Simpson’s bill will allow the U.S. Forest Service to issue special use permits to owners of water systems, authority that it currently lacks.
“I am happy to know that this vital legislation is on its way to becoming law,” said Risch. “Predating the existence of the wilderness areas, private land owners had received permits to maintain and repair water diversions that existed on national forest system lands. Many of the permits have since expired leaving those who own the water diversions without options for maintaining their water systems. This legislation will protect these private property rights and give the Secretary of Agriculture the authority to reissue and issue special use authorizations to the owners of these diversion facilities within the Frank Church and the Selway-Bitteroot Wilderness areas.”
“This common sense legislation makes good on commitments to private landowners made by previous lawmakers when designating wilderness areas in Idaho,” said Crapo. “Passage of this bill will not only provide much-needed certainty for landowners who were hampered from improving water infrastructure on wilderness inholdings, but will also provide clarity for the U.S. Forest Service.”
“I’m so pleased to see that H.R. 876 is on its way to the President’s desk to be signed into law,” said Simpson. “This bill is simple and non-controversial, but it is important to those who own or use water diversions in Idaho wilderness that have existed since before the wilderness was created. By passing this bill into law, these folks will be able to work with the Forest Service to maintain and repair these diversions as needed.”
The Idaho Wilderness Water Resources Protection Act now awaits the President’s signature before it becomes law.