Snake River Basin Adjudication Judge Eric Wildman on September 23 issued what may be the first major order – “a logical and necessary step in the completion of the SRBA” – aimed at shutting down the SRBA.
That first step is “basin closing,” a final end to the taking of late claims in specific basins. Not all were included.
The action grows out of an order Wildman issued on January 13 (as Basin Wide Issue 16), setting a status conference to work out the form and content of a final decree – the closing action – in the SRBA, and what steps should be taken to get there. On July 15, he appointed a steering committee to consider that question, “charged with recommending a logical order and time frame in which these issues and sub-issue should be decided.”
Idaho state attorneys suggested that one of the first moves should include specific ends to making new claims in various basins. Wildman noted that “proposed schedule divided the SRBA basins into three groups based on the following criteria: (i) the amount of subcase activity within each basin, (ii) regional distribution of the closures to spread the workload out for [the Idaho Department of Water Resources], and (iii) SRBA basins that represented an entire drainage basin.” The idea won support from the steering committee, and Wildman generally adopted it.
The department identified three initial sub-groups for shutdown:
? The Owyhee, Reynolds Creek and Jarbidge/Bruneau drainages (51, 55, 57).
? The Clearwater River drainage (81 through 86).
? More scattered basins (23, 24, 25, 43, 61).
The judge said that he plans to issuer closure order for rest of the basins on or before November 30.
Wildman wrote, “In order to allow sufficient time for the development of the final unified decree, the Court believes that basin closure procedure, as outlined in the State’s comments, should be initiated now to allow sufficient time for development of the final unified decree.”
And he noted, “Completion of claims taking in individual basins is an essential first step to completion of the SRBA. Without it, completion of the SRBA will not occur.”
Wildman set a final-final deadline of November 30 for late claims in basins 23, 24, 25, 43, 51, 55, 57, 61, 81, 82, 83, 84, 85, and 86. All claimants in those areas, he said, have received “extensive first-round and second-round Notice of Filing Requirements in the SRBA.”
Most of the judge’s 64-page order was given over to a list of water rights (just those considered substantial, not de minimis) for which no claims have been made in the SRBA.
Wildman wrote, “Claimants should examine Exhibit 1 to determine whether the listed water right numbers are active water rights. The burden of determining whether to file a motion for late claim on any of the listed water right numbers rests solely with the water right holder.”
None of this apparently covers de minimis, domestic or stockwater claims. And he will consider on November 15 an end game for federal reserved water right claims as well.
None of this affects, either, litigation ongoing concerning water right claims – only the filing of brand new claims. That means plenty of litigation still awaits in the SRBA.