Archive for February, 2008

Feb 28 2008

UT: Iron County considers provision

Water is scarce in the Iron County territory of southern Utah, but one water utility is considering expanding its water service to include an Indian band.
The Central Iron County Water Conservancy District board has been considering a proposal that it provide 270 acre-feet of water to a band of the Paiute tribe. The water would cover about 425 acres, near the Hamilton Fort territory.
Cedar City (UT) Review, February 28.

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Feb 28 2008

OR: Ag Community Water Act

Published by under Oregon

On February 22, the “Agricultural and Community Water Act”, also known as Senate Bill 1069, passed both the Oregon House and Senate with unanimous support. The Bill directs the Oregon Water Resources Department to set up a state-wide grant program that will help communities pay for feasibility studies for water conservation, re-use, and storage projects. These feasibility studies are required as a first step in the construction of new water supply projects.
The bill also directs the Department to conduct a detailed aquifer recharge feasibility study in the Umatilla Basin. This feasibility analysis would investigate the potential for withdrawing surface water from the Columbia and Umatilla Rivers when it’s available during the winter months, and delivering that water for storage in below-ground aquifers for use during the irrigation season. The Umatilla Basin feasibility study would identify any already-existing infrastructure, as well as new infrastructure, necessary to implement such a project. Phase III of the study will actually pilot test potential underground storage sites, under a limited license from the Water Resources Department.
An accompanying bill, Senate Bill 5556, provides the actual funding, for a total of $2.5 million—$1.75 million for the grant program and $750,000 for the Umatilla Basin Aquifer Recovery project.
A description of the Agricultural and Community Water Act (ACWA), which provides funding to communities who are conducting feasibility studies for water conservation, re-use, or storage projects can be read here. The document also describes the Umatilla Basin Regional Aquifer Recovery Project, the first feasibility study identified for funding upon passage of the bill. Feb. 26

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Feb 27 2008

NM: Water buys allowed

Published by under New Mexico

New Mexico governor Bill Richardson on February 26 signed a measure which would allow the state to buy water rights in the Pecos Valley which it previously could not unless it also purchased the land where the rights were appurtenant.
Senate Bill 227 is aimed partly at giving the state more room to meet terms of the 1948 Pecos River Compact with Texas, which designates how the states are supposed to use water from the river. The measure allows the state to outright buy water rights there, and also allows the Intrstate Stream Commission to sell off tracts which it had obtained specifically for the underlying water rights.
New Mexico Business Weekly, February 27.

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Feb 27 2008

ID: North adjudication law progresses

The fate of the North Idaho Adjudication has continued up in the air at the Idaho Legislature as it worked through February toward what was widely expected to be a relatively early adjournment in March.
Panhandle residents, the Department of Water Resources slowed its proposal for a general stream adjudication there. Some proposed legislation would cut the Kootenai, Clark Fork and Pend Oreille basins from the adjudication. Some streams in areas where public support for an adjudication is greater, as in the Palouse River area, may go forward.
The most significant forward motion on northern adjudication measure concerned two bills.
Senate Bill 1418, which would delete the Kootenai River Basin from the north Idaho adjudication, and clarify that the Clark Fork and Pend Oreille basins do not include Basin 98. The statement of purpose said that “Given the absence of current water conflicts within this basin and the complexity of addressing international issues within this basin, there is no compelling reason to proceed immediately with the adjudication of the water rights within administrative basin 98.”
The bill, sponsored by Senator Shawn Keough, passed the Senate 33-1 (Lewiston Republican Joe Stegner being the one nay vote) on February 20. At month’s end, it was in the House Resources & Conservation Committee.
The other bill moving forward was Senate Bill 1354, which would “defer participation in the northern Idaho water adjudication of individual domestic water users and request the commencement order be issued only if the court determines it is possible to defer the adjudication of domestic and stock water users. In other Idaho water adjudications the court was able to defer domestic water users and they were not mandated to participate. This would make the treatment of northern Idaho citizens equal to the treatment afforded other Idahoans in the adjudication of water rights.”
Fiscal impact was estimated at $1.9 million.
Sponsors included Senators Keough and Joyce Broadsword and Representatives Eric Anderson, George Eskridge, Mary Lou Shepherd and Dick Harwood.
By late February, it had passed the Senate 33-1 (again, Stegner was the one nay vote), and had landed in the House Resources & Conservation Committee.
Progress on other Northern Idaho legislation as of late February:
? Senate Bill 1279 to delete the North Idaho adjudication entirely – introduced January 16, but held in the Senate Resources & Environment Committee. It was sponsored by Senator Joyce Broadsword and Representatives Dick Harwood and Mary Lou Shepherd.
? Senate Bill 1416, also repealing the North Idaho adjudication, also sponsored by Broadsword. It also remains in the Senate Resources & Environment Committee.
? Senate Bill 1417, which would delay the North Idaho adjudication until July 2009 and provide for an advisory vote in each basin at the 2008 general election. This measure, co-sponored by Senators Broadsword, Shawn Keough and Gary Schroeder, and Representative Dick Harwood, also remains in the Senate Resources & Environment Committee.
This measure includes a new section which provides for three separate proceedings: “Separate petitions shall be filed for water rights adjudications for each of the following river basins, and related ground water sources whether or not hydraulically connected to a surface water source, within Idaho: the Coeur d’Alene-Spokane river basin, the Palouse river basin, and the Kootenai and Clark Fork-Pend Oreille river basins. The filing of each petition shall be contingent on legislative funding approval. Each petition shall describe the boundaries of the water source or water sources to be adjudicated.”
The ballot issue would be, “Should the State of Idaho proceed with commencement of Northern Idaho Water Rights Adjudications for the following river basins located in Northern Idaho: the Coeur d’Alene-Spokane river basin, the Palouse river basin, the Kootenai river basin and the Clark Fork-Pend Oreille river basin?”
? Senate Bill 1278, which would “restrict certain water rights adjudication to adjudication of water rights diverting from the Rathdrum Prairie Aquifer; and to provide that certain actions relating to water prior to a specified date shall constitute accomplished transfers and may be claimed in a general adjudication.” Co-sposored by Senators Broadsword and Keough and Representatives Shepherd, Harwood, George Eskridge nd Eric Anderson, it also remains in the Senate Resources & Environment Committee.
? Senate Bill 1249, to delete Basins 96, 97 and 98 (in the northern Panhandle) from the North Idaho adjudication, remained at month’s end in the Senate Resources & Environment Committee. It was sponsored by Keough, Eskridge and Anderson.
The fiscal impact statement notes, “There is no fiscal impact to the general fund as these basins were not scheduled to be considered until 2011 at the earliest, if at all.”
? Senate Bill 1277, providing for making much of the adjudication essentially voluntary: “The purpose of this legislation is to amend Idaho Code section 42-1406B to make the participation in the northern Idaho water adjudication of individual domestic water users voluntary. In other water adjudications Idaho has undertaken domestic water users were not mandated to participate. This would make the treatment of northern Idaho citizens equal to the treatment afforded other Idahoans in the adjudication of water rights.” Like the others, it is held in the Senate Resources & Environment Committee.
Other legislation. Several other water rights-related pieces of legislation were also active in February:
? Senate Bill 1348, on non-forfeiture of rights in suspended mining operations.
? House Bill 565 on non-abandonment of riparian rights in the case of older easements.
See also the Snake River Basin Adjudication Digest, March 2008

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Feb 26 2008

ID: Pocatello wins no rights

A unanimous Idaho Supreme Court held on February that the city of Pocatello has no claim to a federal reserved water right, a claim it maintained in filing in the Snake River Basin Adjudication in 1990.
The city maintained that a provision of a law passed by Congress in 1888 gave it a reserved water right, which would comparable to rights claimed by federal agencies for federal lands such as national forests. Such rights can be extensive, since they can stretch to meet the needs or objectives outlined in the federal law establishing the territory or usage.
The city later adjusted its legal reasoning, abandoning the reserved right claim but still arguing that the statute specifically gave the city a federal water right.
But in the decision written by Justice Jim Jones the Idaho Supreme Court said (as the master and SRBA Court did) that, while Congress could have established a specific water right for the city of Pocatello, it simply didn’t do that.
The decision laid out in blunt language the origins of Pocatello, originally a place called Pocatello junction located in the middle of the Fort Hall Indian Reservation. Two sets of railroad tracks, one authorized by the tribes and one not, were built through the reservation; they met at Pocatello, and a railroad support community was created there. Federal officials at one point ordered the non-tribal residents there to leave, but eventually entered into negotiations with the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes for a cessation of the land in and near Pocatello, so the new community could remain. The tribes eventually agreed, and in the act of Congress ratifying the deal a provision concerning water was included:
“That the citizens of the town hereinbefore provided for shall have the free and undisturbed use in common with the said Indians of the waters of any river, creek, stream, or spring flowing through the Fort Hall Reservation in the vicinity of said town, with right of access at all times thereto, and the right to construct, operate, and maintain all such ditches, canals, works, or other aqueducts, drain, and sewerage pipes, and other appliances on the reservation, as may be necessary to provide said town with proper water and sewerage facilities.”
The city of Pocatello claimed that provision gave it a federal reserved water right. It was opposed by, among others, the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes and the federal government. In the SRBA, the claim went to a special master and then to SRBA court, and both rejected the city’s reasoning.
The Idaho Supreme Court concluded, “The question presented is whether Section 10 of the 1888 Act granted a federal water right to the City of Pocatello. We hold the Act created no such right. Rather, it granted the City access to surface water sources on the Reservation, along with the opportunity to establish a water right under state law.”
See Snake River Basin Adjudication digest, March 2008. The decision can be found at http://www.isc.idaho.gov/opinions/pocatello.pdf

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Feb 19 2008

MT/WY: Yellowstone deal to SCOTUS

“We’re glad the U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear our case,” said Governor Brian Schweitzer. “Water is always one of our most valuable resources, especially in Eastern Montana. Wyoming has been shortchanging us on water for decades. Now I look forward to a fair hearing.”
In the 2007 legislative session, Governor Schweitzer requested and the legislature approved $3 million for litigation of the provisions of the Yellowstone River Compact.
Montana sued Wyoming in an effort to enforce the provisions of the compact last year. Montana, Wyoming and North Dakota entered into the compact in December 1950, and the states’ legislatures ratified it. The U.S. Congress consented to the compact in October 1951.
The complaint asked the court to order Wyoming to deliver more water in the Tongue and Powder Rivers according to the compact and award the State of Montana damages, costs and other relief.
Source: Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer, February 19. Contact:?Sarah Elliott?406-444-9725

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Feb 16 2008

OR: Klamath Tribes on proposal

The Klamath Tribes today expressed general agreement with the County Commissioners’ recent encouragement that various water interests seek resolution of their differences. “The Commissioners’ recommendation fits well with the Tribes’ ongoing approach to these issues, even though it was made without consulting with the Tribes” said Jeff Mitchell, who is active on the Tribes’ Negotiating Team. “The Tribes intend to continue actively seeking solutions to Off-Project issues regarding water and enhancement of riparian areas.”
The Commissioners’ focused on Section 16 of the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement that was released on January 15. Section 16 of the Agreement aims at resolving water and related issues on Off-Project lands above Upper Klamath Lake.
“Recently some people have been circulating misinformation about the Agreement, and have brought in outsiders to agitate and scare people into rejecting the Agreement. So resolving Off-Project issues has been made more difficult,” Mitchell said. “As a result, we generally agree with the Commissioners’ encouragement and recommendation.”
Tribal representatives noted that they have not had the opportunity to negotiate with the people who actually manage the river banks and divert water, because these people have not been actively involved in negotiations so far. “Individual landowners will make their own decisions on this, so we intend to pursue talks with individual landowners,” Mitchell said.
The Tribes intend to immediately engage in a series of meetings with small numbers of landowners to work through the fear and mistrust that has been generated. “We look forward to those meetings, and we will follow them with a structured approach to negotiations that will involve fair and effective representation from both the Project and Off-Project sectors to seek resolution of issues that have divided the community for so long,” said Chairman Joe Kirk.
Source: Klamath Tribes, February 15. Contact:?Larry Dunsmoor?591-1287

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Feb 15 2008

NM: New agreement on Rio Grande

Elephant Butte Irrigation District and El Paso County Water Improvement District No. 1 today signed a new operating agreement for the Rio Grande Project. The agreement is now headed to the Bureau of Reclamation’s Upper Colorado Regional Director for the final signature.
Reclamation had operated the project under modified procedures for more than a year while staff negotiated with the districts. The previous operating procedures were developed in the early 1980s by Reclamation but never approved by the districts. The Rio Grande Project supplies water to lands located in New Mexico and Texas and delivers water to Mexico by way of the International Boundary and Water Commission.
In accordance with the Rio Grande Compact, Reclamation will utilize an average yearly release from Rio Grande Project storage of 790,000 acre-feet as the amount needed to provide a full allocation to both districts and Mexico. An acre-foot of water is enough water to meet the annual needs of two U.S. households or 326,000 gallons.
The new agreement calls for El Paso No. 1 and Mexico to take their water deliveries at their river headings, based on historical river performance. Elephant Butte Irrigation District’s allotment will be used to make up for any losses in performance of the Rio Grande in New Mexico. The district will also benefit from increases in the performance of the Rio Grande in making water deliveries to the various canal headings.
Each district will be able to carryover the current year’s unused allocation and may accumulate a maximum carryover amount of 60 percent of the full allocation.
“It took a lot of hard work and cooperation to negotiate the important details of this agreement,” said Larry Walkoviak, Upper Colorado Regional Director for the Bureau of Reclamation. “We are pleased with the outcome and grateful to all parties involved for their involvement and persistence.”
The agreement is effective immediately and runs through December 31, 2050. The parties may modify provisions of the agreement if they reach unanimous consent.
Source: U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, Upper Colorado Region, February 14. Contact:?Mary Perea Carlson?(505) 462-3576

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Feb 08 2008

KS: More Republican dispute

Kansas officials today requested a quick resolution to the ongoing battle with Nebraska over its undisputed overuse of waters from the Republican River.
At the same time, Attorney General Steve Six communicated with Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning that Kansas is seeking “real solutions” and that “we expect concrete tangible actions by Nebraska to cure its overuse of Republican River water.”
“Kansas has been patient in waiting for Nebraska to take concrete action,” Six said. “Nebraska’s failure to comply with the Compact and 2002 Settlement is hurting Kansas farmers and communities. I am committed to protecting Kansas resources and ensuring our state receives our fair share of water.”
Kansas’ top water official asked the Republican River Compact Administration to consider the dispute between Kansas and Nebraska as a “fast-track issue” under the compact’s dispute resolution procedure. The compact administration must address the issue within 30 days unless the states agree otherwise.
“Nebraska has not held up its end of the agreement and has consistently used more that its share of the water,” Six said. “Our goal is to get Kansas farmers and communities the water they need and deserve.”
After working with Nebraska for many years to comply with the agreement, Kansas demanded in December 2007 that Nebraska take immediate action shutting down pumps and paying damages for water overuse.
Source: Kansas Attorney General Steven N. Six, February 8.

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Feb 08 2008

MT: Clark Fork damage claims

State and federal officials on Thursday announced the settlement of the final natural resource damage claims for sites in the Clark Fork River Basin and the governments’ environmental remediation claims for the Upper Clark Fork River. Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer, Attorney General Mike McGrath and representatives of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Department of Justice and National Parks Service made the announcement at a press conference at the Civic Center in Butte.
“This means high-paying jobs for a dozen or more years,” Schweitzer said. “This is $168 million for truck drivers and heavy equipment operators, this is money that will stay in the region and roll over on Main Street five or six times.
“It is just one more example where Montana is leading the nation in the new restoration economy.”
The settlement announced Thursday ends 25 years of litigation that began in 1983, when the state sued the Atlantic Richfield Company (Arco) for injuries to the natural resources in the Upper Clark Fork River Basin. The agreement resolves NRD claims for three sites:
? Smelter Hill Uplands– the upland mountains surrounding the city of Anaconda;
? Butte Area One – the alluvial groundwater aquifer and Silver Bow Creek in the city of Butte, and
? Upper Clark Fork River – the floodplain and river between Warm Springs Ponds and Milltown Dam.
The total settlement is $168 million and the state will get $72.5 million to restore the three sites. Of the total:
? $28.1 million is allocated to Butte Area One;
? $13.2 million to the Smelter Hill Uplands, and
? $26.7 million to the Upper Clark Fork River.
In addition, $4.5 million is to reimburse the state for its past technical and litigation costs. And, as part of the settlement, the state is releasing restoration plans for the three sites.
In addition to the $72.5 million, Montana will receive about $95 million for the environmental remediation of the Upper Clark Fork River, which is called for under the EPA Record of Decision. This cleanup will happen over a 12-year period and be led by the Montana Department of Environmental Quality with EPA oversight.
The resolution of the last three NRD claims also frees up millions of dollars from a prior settlement of part of the state’s suit against Arco. In 1999, the state established the $130 million Upper Clark Fork River Basin Restoration Fund, and to date, interest from that fund has financed 74 grant projects worth about $55 million, while the fund balance has grown to about $160 million. With the settlement announced Thursday, the principal and the interest can be used to fund restoration projects to improve the basin’s fish and wildlife habitat and populations, public recreation opportunities and public drinking water supplies
Source: Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer, February 7.

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