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A Seat in the House

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A solution to the Snake River water issue is necessary

The Expanded Natural Resources Interim Committee met in Boise October 14 in continuation of an attempt to solve the water allocation problem in the Upper Snake River area.

We were presented with a draft paper outlining a conceptual settlement that would make possible a net change of 600,000 to 900,000 acre-feet annually in the Snake Plain Aquifer water budget through implementation of water supply, water management, and water demand reduction measures.

The proposal is premised on demonstrating real changes to the ESPA water budget and includes a monitoring program and changes to water administration to ensure the changes to the ESPA water budget occur and are not subverted by future water management decisions.

It may be necessary under the proposal to mitigate impacts on senior water right holders; the responsibility for the costs of mitigation will be the responsibility of junior water right holders. The costs for other measures in the proposal will be paid for by those receiving the benefit of those measures.

Measures include the purchase of water rights by the state through the use of revenue bonds. The beneficiaries of the water would repay the bonds. Additional measures include reduction of ground water depletions through the use of existing and future conversions from ground water to surface water use, changes in water management funded by a variety of grant programs, and reductions in demand through the use of the Federal Government’s Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program. CREP is a voluntary land retirement program used to help agriculture producers safeguard ground and surface water and other land protection measures.

The Northern Basins Working Group of the Expanded Resources Committee has presented recommendations for water resources in northern Idaho. Senator Keough and I provided recommendations for the Clark Fork, Pend Oreille, Kootenai, Moyie and Priest River Basins. These recommendations are:

Establish $102,000 in funding for database development and collection of water monitoring data for Lake Pend Oreille and the Pend Oreille and Clark Fork rivers. This includes $42,000 for water quality monitoring to establish base conditions prior to the development and operation of the Rock Creek mine.

Provide $50,000 one-time money to the Kootenai Resource Initiative to supplement funding for collecting and analyzing data related to reservoir operation effects on white sturgeon and to develop baseline data for water quality and quantity issues on the Moyie and Kootenai Rivers.

Provide $150,000 in start-up funding for the Pend Oreille and Priest Lake Commission for an executive director, office space, and operating expenses. (The Pend Oreille and Priest Lake Commission has existed for two years with no state funding.)

Provide funding for a study of Pend Oreille lake level/operation on ground water recharge to the Rathdrum aquifer. (We did not recommend a specific amount because this is a new area of interest and we need more information to determine a reasonable amount of funding for such a study.)

The Interim Resources Committee will continue to meet in November and possibly in December to finalize recommendations to present to the legislature next session. A solution to the Snake River water allocation issue is necessary to prevent serious interruption to the economic vitality of the upper Snake River area and the resultant economic impact on all of Idaho.

The November 2 election is close and I continue to encourage readers to become familiar with their local candidates for public office. On the day this issue of the Journal will be available (Wednesday, October 27) there will be a candidate forum at the Sandpoint High School.

There is also a forum this same evening at Naples Community Center, but not all the state legislative candidates will be there because of the conflict with the Sandpoint forum. There will be another forum in Bonners Ferry at Mugsy’s Thursday evening (October 28, at 6 pm and the state legislative candidates are expected to attend.

The forums are a great opportunity for you to ask candidates about issues important to you and I encourage all who can to attend one of the forums.

Thanks for reading and as always feel free to contact me anytime with your issues and concerns. My home phone is 208-265-0123 and my mailing address is P.O. Box 112, Dover, Idaho 83825.Be sure to vote on November 2nd. George

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Rep. George Eskridge Rep. George Eskridge the Republican Representative for District 1 in Idaho’s House, George Eskridge can be reached at 208-265-0123 or write PO Box 112, Dover, ID 83825

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Expanded Natural Resurces Interim Committee, Upper Snake River, water

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