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