Attorney for the Black Canyon Irrigation District, the Pioneer Irrigation District and the Boise Project Board of Control on June 8 called for something uncommon and generally discouraged in recent years in the SRBA – designation of a new basin-wide issue.
If approved, it would be designated Basin Wide Issue 17.
SRBA Judge Eric Wildman on June 11 gave notice of a hearing on the issue on September 10 (at 1:30 p.m.) at the Twin Falls SRBA courthouse. Briefing by the initial parties and others will be allowed.
Basin-wide issues are legal questions of consequence to all or significant parts of the Snake River Basin, impacting water rights across a large region. More than a dozen were designated in the early years of the SRBA as a way of disposing of broad legal issues, but few have been approved more recently as judges have moved toward shutting down the case.
The attorneys in this case, however – Albert Barker, Scott Campbell, Charles McDevitt (a former Supreme Court justice) and Shelley Davis – are not newcomers to work in the adjudication.
And the matter at issue has considerable implications for water storage around the basin – and even, the proponents seem to suggest, beyond the SRBA and throughout the state of Idaho.
Their proposed issue: “Does Idaho law require a remark authorizing storage rights to ‘refill’ space vacated for flood control?”
The issue has become an abruptly heated one. Numerous motions on the subject of refills were filed, involving those districts and others, during the month of June.
The filers noted that “In certain on-going SRBA proceedings [they included a list in a separate exhibit] on Basin 01 storage water rights in American Falls and Palisades reservoirs, the Bureau of Reclamation and the State of Idaho have taken the position that a remark is ‘necessary’ on those storage rights for those reservoirs to administer water entering Reclamation reservoirs after water has been released from those reservoirs for flood control, or other operational mandates. While the parties disagree substantially on the form of remark, those parties nevertheless agree that some remark is required.
“Of concern to the Petitioners, the State of Idaho has argued broadly that 1) there can be no refill of any kind of storage rights unless there is a remark authorizing refill, and 2) that ‘Idaho law requires that storage ‘refill’ be subordinate to all existing and future water rights.’ The State’s argument is not limited to only the storage subcases at issue in that proceeding, but appears on its face to have broad applicability to all storage rights in all reservoirs in the state of Idaho.”
The issue has not touched on many subcase rights already issued by the SRBA Court, over a period of years.
The attorneys point out that “Most of the storage rights within within the jurisdiction of the SRBA have already been issued partial decrees without any remark concerning refill, much less the remark urged by the State in the Basin 01 proceedings. The Basin 63 Boise River storage rights, and the and the Basin 65 Payette River storage rights have no such remark and have historically refilled to protect the spaceholders in priority …”
They advised as to impact that “Early resolution of this issue through designation as a Basin Wide Issue will serve the purpose of judicial economy by ensuring an early and unified legal determination in the SRBA which can then be applied to individual storage water rights, even those which have already gone to partial decree. Without a Basin Wide Issue to resolve this matter prior to the SRBA’s entry of a Unified Partial Decree, then storage rights in other than American Falls and Palisades Reclamation facilities would be prejudiced.”