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 NEWS RELEASE: Coalition for Idaho Water

Court Order Language Raises Concern For Idaho Water Sovereignty

            Boise, Idaho,  Apr 28, 2006 – Ominous language in a court order issued by a Federal judge in Portland has raised red flags that clearly suggest that Idaho’s sovereignty over water in the Upper Snake River reservoir system may be in  serious jeopardy,  the Coalition for Idaho Water said today

            The order was issued by Judge James A. Redden as part of the on-going court battle between Idaho’s water user community and environmental groups over salmon recovery efforts.  It contains a statement that:  “The court is inclined to agree . . . that the consultation on the upper Snake projects was improperly segmented from the consultation on the lower Snake and Columbia River projects.”

            That suggests the judge may have already decided that Idaho’s Upper Snake reservoir system should be made part and parcel of all future Endangered Species Act salmon recovery efforts.

            The troubling court language has prompted the Coalition to move to having the Idaho Congressional delegation become directly involved.  Semanko has already begun briefing the state’s Congressional delegations on the latest developments.

            “The  troubling tone of the judge’s order has left Idaho water users with no choice but to now put the option of a Congressional legislative intervention in the process squarely on the table,”  said Norm Semanko,  a Coalition leader.

            The Coalition along with various other groups have steadfastly maintained that the Upper Snake projects are not part, scientifically or legally, of Endangered Species actions that involve the lower Snake or Columbia Rivers.  The argument has been supported by extensive scientific evidence showing that Idaho’s Upper Snake system does not jeopardize salmon recovery efforts.

            Endangered species actions resulted in the devastating Klamath Basin debacle of 2001.  In that situation, water was taken away from irrigators to support endangered species actions.  The result was a financial disaster for family farms in the Klamath Basin.  Coalition officials say they are concerned a similar situation now could be looming on the horizon for Idaho.

            “If the Upper Snake projects become part of the equation,  then Idaho will have lost control of its own water.  That means the state’s irrigation supplies are at genuine risk of being drained to try to meet downstream river flow targets that scientists have already said are impossible to meet,”  said Norm Semanko,  a Coalition spokesman.

            “If that happens,  then Idaho’s agricultural economy will be so devastated as to make the Klamath Basin disaster look minor by comparison,”  Semanko adde      

            Oral arguments in the case, including addressing the issue raised by the judge, are scheduled for May 3 in Portland.

            The Coalition is formed from more than 50 organizations representing Idaho counties, cities, chambers of commerce, industrial, municipal and commercial water users, and agricultural groups.





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