Today the House of Representatives passed legislation authored by Idaho Congressman Mike Simpson to address water issues in existing Idaho wilderness areas. H.R. 2050, the Idaho Wilderness Water Resources Protection Act, authorizes and permits historical water diversions in the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness Area and the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness area that existed before the wilderness designation.
"Like a lot of good legislation, H.R. 2050 arose from conversations with an Idahoan who needed help with an issue that was out of his control," said Simpson. "The Acts that created the wilderness areas in Idaho overlooked these water diversions, which are primarily used to support irrigation and minor hydropower generation, leaving private landowners without the ability to maintain or fix them. I'm pleased that H.R. 2050 not only addresses this one specific diversion, but it provides the tools needed to authorize and repair all of these diversions in the future."
H.R. 2050 would authorize the Forest Service to issue special use permits for all qualifying historic water systems in the wilderness areas. Such authority will ensure that existing water diversions can be properly maintained and repaired when necessary and preserve beneficial use for private property owners who hold water rights under state law.
"At some point in the future, all 25 of these existing diversions will need maintenance or repair work done to ensure their integrity," said Simpson. "H.R. 2050 is intended as a simple, reasonable solution to a problem that I think we can all agree should be solved as quickly as possible."