Congress is currently working on legislation that is of concern to Idaho Water Users. The original legislation, S. 1281 would set a new precedent throughout the West that would adversely effect not only Idaho, but many other states that are currently dealing with water supply, use and storage issues. Please take action now to help stop this legislation. This legislation has now been wrapped in an omnibus bill, the Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2008, S. 3213. The Snake River Headwaters language is located in Title V.
To read S. 3213, the Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2008, click here.
To read the original legislation, S. 1281, click here.
S. 1281, the Craig Thomas Snake Headwaters Legacy Act of 2008, has been approved by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, without amendments that are necessary to protect Idaho water Users. The bill is now headed to the Senate floor.
The Snake Headwaters Legacy Act is intended to apply Wild and Scenic designations to approximately 400 miles of tributaries and the Snake River itself, both above and below Jackson Lake Dam.
This legislation sets an adverse precedent for regulated river basins throughout the West, as it will have a great impact on all supply, use and storage issues and water management plans.
• Idaho water users oppose any Wild and Scenic designation below Jackson Lake, and the Idaho Attorney General's Office has expressed concern. Amendments to address those concerns were rejected by the Senate Committee.
• All water stored behind Jackson Lake Dam in Wyoming is owned by water users in Idaho. From Twin Falls to Idaho Falls and all surrounding areas, farmers, ranchers and other water users rely heavily on water stored in Jackson Lake.
• S.1281 seeks to include federal Wild & Scenic River designations below the Dam and this will put great pressure on the Bureau of Reclamation to change its management practices, thereby resulting in reduced water storage supplies. Such pressures already exist to some extent, but these designations would give them new legal standing. Citizen suits by environmental groups will ensure that this happens if the designations below the dam are approved through enactment of S.1281.
• Reduced reservoir supplies will exacerbate the already difficult surface water/ground water delivery situation in Idaho, thereby increasing the probability that ground water use in Idaho will be curtailed. While S.1281 may provide for Idaho’s water rights, it does not address the issue of flows below Jackson Lake Dam.
• Mismanagement of Palisades Reservoir, just downstream of Jackson Lake Dam, during this past storage season resulted in significant losses of storage water; a federal designation below Jackson Dam will only provide additional pressures on this crucial piece of the Snake River storage system downstream of Jackson Lake.
• The federal government is currently arguing that existing Wild & Scenic River designations in Central Idaho, and the associated federal reserved water rights, preclude Idaho water users’ long-standing water practices in that basin. The proposed designations below Jackson Lake Dam would provide a new avenue for these types of arguments in the Snake River Basin.
• The proposed designations above Jackson Lake are not problematic, provided the protections for operation of Jackson Lake Dam and Reservoir are included in the bill. It is only the stretch below Jackson Lake Dam – a small portion (10%) of the total river miles included in the bill – that stands to adversely impact water users in Idaho.
• To adequately protect Idaho-owned storage water supplies in Jackson Lake, the proposed designations below Jackson Lake Dam should either be removed from the bill or the bill should be amended to include proposed compromise HCNRA language, otherwise the bill should be pulled. At the request of Wyoming irrigators, more than 50 miles have already been removed from the bill because of concerns about the impacts to their water supplies. The concerns of Idaho Water Users should be afforded the same courtesy.
• This bill may appear to only regulate Wyoming; however, if enacted it also regulates water owned and used by Idaho, in Idaho.
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Idaho State Legislative Summary 2008
Following are some of the items that we tracked over the course of the session, those that might have an impact on Water Users and where they ended up at the end of the session.
S. 1249 Deleting Kootenai and Clark Fork-Pend Oreille river basin from adjudication… S. Res.
S. 1277 Deleting surface and ground water from N. ID adjudication…S. Res.
S. 1278 Narrowing N. ID adjudication to Rathdrum Prairie… S. Res.
S. 1279 Repeal of N. ID adjudication… S. Res
S. 1347 Increase in 2008 appropriation… Law
S. 1348 Retained water use for mineral development… Law
S. 1352 Revises fee provisions of N. ID water rights adjudication… Law
S. 1353 Clarifies exemption of domestic wells from adjudication… S. Res.
S. 1354 Defer adjudication for domestic and stock water users… Law
S. 1375 Ground water protection for mining operations… S. H&W
S. 1416 Repeals N. ID water rights adjudication…S. Res.
S. 1417 Delay N. ID adjudication for advisory vote…S. Res.
S. 1418 Deleting Basin 98 from adjudication… Law
S. 1424 Access to irrigation water through local improvement districts… Law
S. 1511 Appropriations for 2008 projects and 2009 water storage studies… Law
H. 404 Statewide aquifer planning management… H. Res.
H. 428 Statewide aquifer planning management (revised)… Law
H. 433 Irrigation district elections, date flexibility in canvassing… Law
H. 474 Irrigation district board of electors, qualifications… Law
H. 605 Water rights for forest practices (dust abatement)… H. Res.
H. 617 Allows exclusion of property owners from modified Local Improvement Districts… H. Rev. & Tax
H. 619 Water rights for forest practices (revised)… Law
H. 634 Notice requirements for water rights appropriations…H. Res.
H. 644 Fiscal year 2009 appropriations, Water Resources Department… Law
HJM 8 Water storage studies… Adopted
April 2, 2008
After several last day, last minute goings on, the Legislature has adjourned Sine Die. An end of session final report will be posted soon to wrap up the happenings of the 2008 Legislative Session.
March 14, 2008
S. 1424, the legislation regarding irrigation districts and access to water through the formation of a local improvement district and setting out how this is done, was sent to the House floor with a do pass recommendation from the House Resources Committee. Some questions came up regarding the issues surrounding local improvement districts, how they are created and who is subject to the taxes within them, but it was clarified that those issues are being dealt with in a separate piece of legislation, H. 617.
March 12, 2008
Many bills are flying fast as Legislators anticipate an end to the session nearing. HJM 8 was heard in Senate Resources and sent to the 10th order of business on Monday, and today passed the Senate floor. H. 433 was sent out of the committee as well, and is on the Second Reading Calendar in the Senate. Yesterday, the House passed three North Idaho Water Rights Adjudication bills very easily, S. 1352, S. 1354, and S. 1418. Many other major issues are being taken on in the final weeks of the session, but both houses seem to be working through their respective calendars very quickly now.
March 7, 2008
HJM 8 and H. 433 will both be up in Senate Resources on Monday. You can still send an email in support of HJM 8 by clicking here.
March 6, 2008
North Idaho water rights adjudication legislation still sits on the House 3rd reading calendar. The Senate bills continue to move down the list as House bills are ushered to be dealt with on the other side of the rotunda. The Legislature is making efforts to get through their work quickly, and it is obvious legislators are anxious to leave. HJM 8 has been sent to the Senate Resources & Environment Committee, but has not yet been placed on the agenda. Over 60 letters have been sent to legislators to encourage their support, and you can still write your Senators and ask for their support of this legislation. To write a letter, please click here.
February 27, 2008
Senate Resources & Environment Committee sent S. 1424 to the floor with a do pass recommendation. Langhorst was the only Senator voting in opposition to the bill, not because of the merits of the bill, which would allow access to water for those living within an irrigation district who currently do not have accessible water, but because of the changes to the protest measure. They also sent H.428 to the floor do pass, which deals with comprehensive aquifer planning and management over ten years, and funding measures.
In the House Resources & Conservation Committee, S. 1352, S. 1354 and S.1418 were all sent to the floor with a do pass recommendation. These all deal with the North Idaho Water Rights Adjudication, deleting one basin, fee provisions, and deferring domestic and stock water users from the adjudication plan.
February 20, 2008
Most of the North Idaho Water Rights Adjudication bills are on the Senate 3rd reading calendar today, while yesterday, H 433 and H 474, dealing with irrigation districts, both passed the House floor and were referred to the Senate.
February 12, 2008
The legislature is in full swing, and water issues are at the top of the list for many. Yesterday, the Senate Resources & Environment Committee introduced S. 1424. This legislation would allow people who live in irrigation districts to have better access to irrigation water that is appurtenant to their property, but which is not currently accessible. This would be accomplished by improving the ability of irrigation districts to form local improvement districts to provide for such water supplies through connection or reconnection to the irrigation system of the irrigation district. Irrigation districts would be allowed to authorize a preliminary study to determine the feasibility and costs of a local improvement district. This legislation further clarifies that irrigation districts located in more than one county may publish notice only in the county where the proposed local improvement district is to be located. Hearings on protests could be continued without further publication and only protests filed before the original hearing may be considered. The legislation also provides for suspension of further consideration of a petition to establish a local improvement district in the event that a sufficient number of protests are received.