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WWP Withdraws Complaint Against Furey and Racine

by Anna Means
Opinion, The Challis Messenger, September 27, 2001

Last week Western Watersheds Project (WWP) issued a press release claiming its legal pressure halted a faulty water diversion on Fourth of July Creek. Defendants named in the complaint said they merely turned the water off because it was the end of the irrigating season.

On August 30, WWP filed a complaint against Jack Furey and Louis Racine, co-owners of the Thousand Springs Ranch in the Sawtooth Valley. Plaintiffs charged that Furey and Racine violated the Endangered Species Act with respect to their operation of a diversion on the lower portion of Fourth of July Creek. The complaint said the dam blocked the stream channel and no headgate, measuring device or screen was in place to protect spring/summer chinook, Snake River steelhead and/or bull trout living in the creek.

Last week's release stated, "In response to legal action by WWP, attorney-ranchers Jack Furey and Louis Racine have removed a water diversion dam that threatened three species of fish in Fourth of July Creek in the Boulder-White Cloud Mountains of central Idaho."

Jack Furey spoke to the Messenger this week and said that the lessee turns the water back to the creek at this time every year because "we're done irrigating for the year."

Racine, in a phone conversation with the Messenger, said he hadn't been on site this year, but was just informed by Fish and Game that a headgate and corresponding measuring device had just been installed as Racine had authorized in a contract he signed in August.

Racine said he'd been working with Fish and Game (for design and construction) as well as Forest Service (for permitting) for years to do all of the above. He said earlier this month he sent a copy of the contract with Fish and Game (for the latest work) to WWP lawyers.

Racine said he's "miffed" that WWP wants people to think everybody's "knuckled under" because of the lawsuits.

"It doesn't require a lawsuit." He said he's always cooperated with the agencies and in this situation Fish and Game got to the project as time and money allowed. "We weren't doing anything wrong in the first place. In the past, to the extent it was helpful to fisheries, we have voluntarily reduced our water rights."

Racine said he's also drafted a letter to WWP attorneys saying he's willing to work with them, but doesn't intend to forfeit his legal water right.

"If they want to condemn our water rights, they must remember it's a property right and can't be taken without just compensation."

Anna Means
WWP Withdraws Complaint Against Furey and Racine
The Challis Messenger, September 27, 2001

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