State rushes to pass new water laws after SC decision

Legal News Line Mar. 9, 2007, 4:33am

Idaho Supreme Court building

BOISE -- The Idaho statehouse has wasted little time reacting to this week's ground-breaking decision by the state's Supreme Court on water rights. The House passed two bills Tuesday and Wednesday appropriating funds to help study and manage the state's water needs. A third bill was introduced in committee to expand the state's aquifer management. Tuesday's bill assigns $557,000 to the Idaho Department of Water Resources to continue managing Idaho's groundwater and surface water allocations. Wednesday's adds a further $850,000 from the general fund to study aquifer management. The latter sum is intended to pay for an extra 16 months of work by consulting firm CDR Associates, according to a report in the Twin Falls Times-News. CDR is attempting to work out a water-use plan for the Eastern Snake Plain Aquifer (ESPA). The bill introduced in the House State Affairs Committee Wednesday would give the IDWR authority over all aquifers in Idaho, not just the Eastern Snake Plain Aquifer. It is not expected to be voted on during the current legislative session. The Idaho Supreme Court ruled two days ago, as reported in LegalNewsLine, that water rights in Idaho should not be allocated on seniority alone. Instead the court reinstated the previous system, whereby the IDWR balances the needs of all water users. The decision was hailed as a win for the downstream groundwater users of the Eastern Snake Plain Aquifer, who include farmers and eastern-Idaho municipalities like Pocatello.

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