Legislation authored by Congressman Mike Simpson addressing water issues in Idaho wilderness areas was passed by the House of Representatives today. H.R. 876, 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 designations. Similar legislation sponsored by Congressman Simpson was passed by the House during the 111th and 112th Congresses.
"H.R. 876 fixes a long-standing problem that was brought to my attention during conversations with Idahoans," said Simpson. "These water diversions, which are primarily used to support irrigation and minor hydropower generation, existed before the wilderness areas were designated, but the Acts creating those wilderness areas overlooked them. By going back and providing the appropriate authorization to these diversions, this legislation gives private land owners the ability to properly maintain them or fix them when they need repairs."
H.R. 876 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.
"This bill provides a simple and reasonable solution to a problem that should be solved. At some point in the future, each one of the 25 existing diversions will need maintenance or repair work done to ensure their integrity -- passing this legislation will allow any needed work to begin without delay," said Simpson. "I look forward to the Senate acting on this bill, which has passed the House multiple times."
H.R. 876 passed 398-0 and is now awaiting action by the U.S. Senate