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(S. 863, 85th Cong., 1st sess.; also 84th Cong., ist sess.) A BILL To affirm and recognize the water laws of the States lying wholly or partly west of the ninety-eighth


Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That this Act may be cited as the “Western Water Rights Settlement Act of 1957.

ŠEC. 2. In the arid and semiarid regions west of the ninety-eighth meridian rights to the use of water are property rights which are fundamental to the economic life and well-being of the American people. In view of the fact that the needs for water do not coincide with the location or the natural flow of the available sources of supply, it is recognized that rights to impound and divert water and to apply it to beneficial purposes, frequently at places substantial distances from the points of diversion or storage, are matters of paramount importance. To promote the beneficial application of the available water supplies in these regions it is and has been necessary that public and nonpublic entities be encouraged to make investments in water resource developments. Security of right to the use of water for beneficial purposes is essential to such encouragement, and regulating the acquisition of water rights must be orderly and with full regard to the need for stability of such rights if public and private investments in water resource developments are to continue on a sound basis. Neither the proprietorship functions of the United States derived from the ownership of the public lands nor the exercise of its powers relating to interstate commerce and the general welfare should be permitted unduly to interfere with prior rights to the use of water or the orderly acquisition of such rights in the future. For more than ninety years this policy has been recognized by the Congress and the acquisition of such rights under State law has been encouraged and repeatedly protected by Federal legislation. Under this policy these States have been able to make their proper contribution to the strength of the Union, and twenty-seven million acres of arid and semiarid land have been brought under irrigation, of which only one-fourth are a result of federally assisted projects. It has not been and is not the intention of the Congress that Federal agencies, in pursuing their programs for water resources development in these arid and semiarid areas, shall have any prerogative to preempt the field or to cast clouds on the security of prior rights under State law acquired for beneficial purposes. Because of the fact that previous Acts of Congress have been and may be interpreted with respect to these States so as to cast clouds on such prior rights and to interfere with the future orderly development of water resources in accordance with the foregoing declaration, it is the purpose of this Act: (1) to remove any such clouds; (2) to provide for the future acquisition of unappropriated ground and surface waters, navigable and nonnavigable, in compliance with State laws; and (3) to provide adequate protections of the Federal interests to the end that the Federal Government may perform its functions in a manner consistent with the foregoing purposes.

SEC. 3. For the purposes of this Act,

(a) “Federal agency” means the executive departments and independent establishments of the United States, and corporations primarily acting as instrumentalities or agencies of the United States;

(b) "Employee of the Government” includes officers or employees of any Federal agency, members of the military or naval forces of the United States, and persons acting on behalf of any Federal agency in an official capacity whether temporarily or otherwise.

Sec. 4. This Act shall apply only to States lying wholly or in part west of the ninety-eighth meridian.

SEČ. 5. In the use of ground and surface water for any purpose in connection with Federal programs, projects, or activities no Federal agency or employee ;


of the Government shall interfere with the exercise of any right to the use of water for the beneficial purposes theretofore acquired under and recognized by State custom or law except when authorized by Federal law and upon payment of just compensation therefor: Provided, That the provisions of this Act shall not be construed to preclude, when authorized by Federal law, the acquisition by or for the United States of such rights by purchase, exchange, gift, or eminent domain, or by any manner of acquisition recognized under State law.

SEC. 6. Subject to existing rights, all unappropriated navigable and nonnavigable ground and surface waters are reserved for appropriation and use of the public pursuant to State law, and rights to the use of such waters for beneficial purposes shall be acquired under State laws relating to the appropriation, control, use, and distribution of such waters. Federal agencies and permittees, licensees, and employees of the Government, in the use of water for any purpose in connection with Federal programs, projects, activities, licenses, or permits, shall acquire rights to the use thereof in conformity with State laws and procedures relating to the control, appropriation, use, or distribution of such water: Provided, That nothing in this Act shall be construed to require the acquisition by the United States of such rights in the storage and release of water by the United States solely for the prevention of floods: Provided further, That the United States may acquire such rights, when authorized under Federal law, by purchase, exchange, gift, or eminent domain: Provided further, That no right hereafter acquired under State law shall be enforceable against the United States if such right would be enforceable against the United States only because of a State law or custom which discriminates against the United States or denies the United States the opportunity to acquire such rights on terms and conditions at least as favorable as those under which any other entity or person may acquire such rights: And provided further, That nothing in this Act shall be construed to permit any person or entity to acquire the right to store or divert waters in any national park or monument unless otherwise authorized by Act of Congress.

SEC. 7. Nothing in this Act shall be construed to impair or diminish the rights of any State or the United States to waters under any interstate compact or judicial decree, or to permit appropriations of water under State law which interfere with the fulfillment of treaty obligations of the United States, or to affect, impair, diminish, or enlarge any existing water rights in Indians, Indian tribes, or persons claiming under or through them or any Federal reclamation project heretofore authorized by the United States.

SEC. 8. Subject to existing rights the use for navigation of waters arising in States lying wholly or partly west of the ninety-eighth meridian shall be only such use as does not conflict with any beneficial use thereof, present or future, in States lying wholly or partly west of the ninety-eighth meridian, of such waters for domestic, municipal, stock water, irrigation, mining, or industrial purposes.

SEC. 9. All withdrawals and reservations of public land heretofore or hereafter made by the United States shall be deemed made without prejudice to the beneficial use of water originating in or flowing across such lands, theretofore, or there-after initiated under the laws of the States in which such lands are situated.

SEC. 10. The provisions of this Act shall not be construed as repealing or affecting any of the provisions of section 8 of the Reclamation Act of 1902, but shall be construed as being supplementary thereto.

SEC. 11. Any license or permit issued under the Federal Power Act for the construction of any project works (as defined in such Act), which would impound or divert or interrupt the flow of nonnavigable and intrastate waters, is hereby suspended if such construction has not on the date of enactment of this Act reached a stage of completion which effects such inpounding, diversion, or interruption. Any suspension under the provisions of this Act may be terminated by the Federal Power Commission upon a determination by the Commission that all requirements of this Act have been substantially complied with by the licensee or permittee whose license or permit is suspended.

SEC. 12. If any provision of this Act or the application of such provision to any person, organization, or circumstance shall be held invalid, the remainder of the Act and the application of such provision to persons, organizations, or circumstances other than those as to which it is held invalid shall not be affected thereby.


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