Lawmakers Expect a Debate Over Damsby Associated Press
Lewiston Tribune, November 20, 2003
TWIN FALLS -- The chairman of the Senate Resources and Environment Committee expects the turmoil over operation of Idaho's upper Snake River dams to boil over into this winter's legislative session.
But neither Republican Laird Noh of Kimberly or GOP House Speaker Bruce Newcomb of Burley was willing to predict what lawmakers may do beyond continue the debate.
"There are a number of interconnected issues, and what occurs with one can affect another," Noh said. "But these are the kinds of conflicts that will involve compromise and coalitions."
Newcomb believes a legislative solution to at least some of the issues can be found either during the regular session that opens in January or in a brief special session later in the year once any legislative solution finds consensus.
Environmentalists and water users are threatening to go to court over operation of the upper Snake River dams. Environmental groups claim the dam operators during the last several years of drought have failed to provide adequate water for salmon migration. The water users, trying to protect two million acres of irrigated farm land, contend the government cannot operate those dams for the benefit of fish.
Compounding the program is the face-off in south-central Idaho between commercial fish hatcheries and groundwater irrigators. The hatcheries claim the well pumpers have dried up the source of springs that feed the Middle Snake River and their hatcheries and have formally demanded that the state shut the wells down.
Noh appeared less than optimistic about water legislation passing this winter because of the limited time his committee can devote to it and the pressure to adjourn sometime in March after spending a record 118 days in session earlier this year.
Fish Producers Have a Valid Argument in Seeking Curtailment of Junior Water Rights, Editorial, Times-News, 11/21/3
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