February 23, 2005

Crapo: Federal Agencies Should Pay Fair Share

Legislation requires federal government to filing fees in water rights cases

Washington, DC â?? Idaho Senator Mike Crapo wants federal agencies to pay their fair share of filing fees in water rights cases, and heâ??s introduced legislation to require just that. Crapo, recognized by many in Congress for his expertise in water rights law, says the Water Adjudication Fee Fairness Act of 2003 would remedy a long-standing practice that allows the federal government to waive fees and costs faced by states and other private users.Crapo said in a statement introducing the bill, â??When the United States does not pay a proportionate share of the costs associated with adjudications, the burden of funding the proceedings unfairly shifts to other water users and often delays completion of the adjudications by diminishing the resources necessary to complete them. Delays in completing adjudications result in the inability to protect private and public property interests or determine how much unappropriated water may remain to satisfy important environmental and economic development priorities.â?? Crapo continued, â??Additionally, because they are not subject to fees and costs like other water users in the adjudication, federal agencies can file questionable claims without facing court costs, inflating the number of their claims for future negotiation purposes and drawing time and scarce resources from claims that truly require attention. This inequity creates a playing field unduly favoring the federal agencies and places a further financial and resources burden on the system. . . However, the federal government should play by the same rules as the states and other private users.â??Norm Semanko, Executive Director, Idaho Water Users Association, agreed. â??It is tremendously important to the state that we complete the adjudication process, and Senator Crapoâ??s legislation is a key component of making sure that happens in a timely manner. Itâ??s just a simple matter of fairness that the federal government should pay filing fees for water right claims the same as anyone else.â??The bill has gained support from the Western States Water Council and the Western Governorâ??s Association. S. 844, the Water Adjudication Fee Fairness Act of 2003, would assist state officials who bear the costs of determining water rights claims. The bill requires federal payment to the states for federal water rights claims that are made, citing the 1952 McCarran Amendment which waives the sovereign immunity of the United States regarding such claims. State and private claimants have already paid more than $800,000 responding to water claims by the U.S. Forest Service alone in the Snake River Basin Adjudication, which may be the largest water adjudication proceeding in the nation. The measure has been referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee.# # #