Can’t get enough Labrador, Bill, Betsy or Jim? We got you covered.

Idaho Reports traveled all the way to Washington you didn’t think we’d leave half the interview on the cutting room floor? Aaron Kunz talks federal lands, immigration and more in this extended interview with the Congressman Labrador.

The United States Speaker race hijacked the week, but some things happened back here in Idaho. The Idaho Statesman’s Bill Dentzer joins pundits Betsy Russell of the Spokesman-Review and Dr. Jim Weatherby to discuss the Tax Working Group and Commerce Director Doug Sayer’s recent comments.


Uncertainty in the Wood River Valley

Kevin Harrison and Aaron Kunz

Uncertainty looms over the Wood River Valley as the important water management process plays out in central Idaho. At stake is how much water will be available for crop irrigation, ranching, and other business interests. These water call documents, for the Big Wood River Water Users Association, the Little Wood River Water Users Association, and the Idaho Department of Water Resources paint the legal framework for how they’ll move forward. They can be found here and here.

Idaho uses the “prior appropriation” model, also known as “first in time – is first in right.” The state’s oldest water users took water directly out of rivers, streams and lakes. They are known as surface water users. Decades later we learned how to use pumps to coax water out of underground sources such as aquifers like the giant Snake River Plain Aquifer that stretches from St. Anthony to Twin Falls. Those users are known as groundwater users and because they came after surface water users, a lot of them have junior water rights.

That became a big issue when the courts recognized that surface water and groundwater are linked. Take too much water out of the aquifer, and surface water is used to recharge the aquifer. Take too much surface water and groundwater isn’t recharged. None of this is a problem when water is plentiful, but a huge problem when water is scarce like it has been this year.

The biggest state water management legal case, known as the Snake River Basin Adjudication, has helped set the stage for the situation in the Wood River Valley, where water management is still being developed.

The Wood River Valley Groundwater-Flow Model, a joint project between the IDWR and the United States Geologic Survey, is scheduled for completion early next year. The model is meant to further our understanding of the relation between surface and groundwater in the Wood River Valley. It will also contribute to long-term planning, resource management, and conjunctive administration.

The IDWR has published a project summary that explains why the model is needed. The kick-off presentation from the initial meeting adds additional information. There are also project updates available from both the IDWR and the USGS, both from January 2014. The recent water calls for the Wood River Valley have highlighted the significance this model will play in future administration and litigation. A recent Capital Press story quotes Matt Weaver, Deputy Director of the IDWR, as stating that he doesn’t anticipate much progress will be made on these water calls until the flow-model is complete. You can read the story here.

The model may not be finished until 2016, but you’ll be hearing a lot more from the Wood River Valley as people try to prevent a water curtailment.


We’re not Washington D.C.

By Seth Ogilvie

Earlier this month Wayne Hoffman of the Idaho Freedom Foundation leaned over a brown table In the Idaho Public Television break room looked me in the eyes and said  “We’re not Washington D.C.” He took a beat. He let the political Haiku have the space it needed. When the room had processed the juxtaposition he continued “People see the tags we wear and the building we work in and just assume the Idaho State House is just like congress. It isn’t.” Idaho is different. The Idaho State House is different. The politicians are different.

Idaho is the last frontier. Men and women still come to till their field, mine their claim or build their future with the hope that their success rests solely on their own ingenuity.  Things are not as simple as when J.R. Simplot quit the eighth grade to work on a farm near Declo. The entrepreneurs of today’s Idaho work in binary, plastics and genetics but that fundamental belief that a man or woman with expertise and the desire to work can be successful at any level remains. In the Idaho Legislature these same people come together to make policy.

Idaho has a Jeffersonian government. Our House and our Senate are not made up of an intellectual aristocracy; they are made up of the people, “just that average quality of citizenship” that Theodore Roosevelt talked about in a 1903 speech in Idaho. Farmers, insurance salesman and doctors coming together to create policy that they have first-hand knowledge of. The legislators of Idaho work real jobs and interact with real people. They are not career politicians detached from the working class.

This blend of personalities is one of the things that makes Idaho unique. Farmers consulting on agricultural policy, doctors helping to write new medical laws. Jefferson idealized the citizen-run government and over 200 years later his hopes still live on in Idaho, a place that is definitely “not Washington D.C.”