4/12/2001 -- --
Charles Gauvin, President of the national conservation organization Trout Unlimited, sent a letter to the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture today countering claims made by Colorado Senator Wayne Allard that the federal government's use of bypass flow authority is a radical approach to federal land management.
The letter, which was sent in response to a letter Allard sent to Secretary Ann Veneman in late March, rebuts the Colorado senator's claims that bypass flow authority is a new approach being implemented by the U.S. Forest Service to take water from private property owners. As Secretary of Agriculture, Veneman oversees the Forest Service.
Bypass flow authority is a long-held mechanism used by the Forest Service and other federal and state agencies to put conditions on water use to ensure that some is left in the streams to support fish and wildlife habitat, as well as for people who enjoy living streams. The authority is viewed by many, including organizations like Trout Unlimited, as vital to preserving the quality of the National Forests on behalf of all Americans.
"Senator Allard’s letter suggests that the USFS’ use of by-pass flows as a condition of permit issuance is a new and radical approach to federal land management undertaken by the Clinton Administration. That decidedly is not the case," Gauvin wrote.
Congress gave bypass flow authority to the Forest Service in the mid-1970s for the express purpose of protecting the nation's water resources when issuing water permits. Since then, the Forest Service has used its authority only 15 times nationally as of 1995.
Irrigators and other large users of water have criticized the power of agencies such as the U.S. Forest Service to assure that streams and rivers retain the flows necessary to maintain fish and wildlife habitat. Ironically, in spite of Senator Allard's claims, bypass flow authority is seldom used because the Forest Service and water users often reaching voluntary agreements on water usage.
"The imposition of a by-pass flow … is not a regulation; it is a reasonable approach to protecting the rights of the American people when private entities use National Forest lands held in trust for the American people,” Gauvin wrote in his letter.
"There are thousands of reservoirs and diversions on National Forest lands. Each alters natural flows and impacts fish and wildlife habitat both above and below the facility. Many of the permits for these facilities originally were issued before USFS or anyone else understood the environmental cost of dewatering native stream channels... [in renewing these permits] USFS must be allowed to rely on its ability, like other federal management agencies, to require that some water remain instream…"
Trout Unlimited is North America’s coldwater fishery conservation organization, dedicated to the conservation, protection and restoration trout and salmon fisheries and their watersheds. The organization has more than 130,000 members in 500 chapters in North America, including 8,000 members in Colorado.