The old saying that when it rains, it pours is true regarding water issues. There are several things currently happening that we need to pay attention to.
Late last year, the Army Corps of Engineers and the Environmental Protection Agency issued their final ruling that defines the Waters of the United States (WOTUS). In 1972 Congress established the Clean Water Act, which set their jurisdiction over navigable waters. A section of new rule requires any new water projects that flow into a WOTUS which may “materially” impact it, will require a Federal Permit and potentially an EPA study. Their ruling established a broader definition of WOTUS while leaving the term “materially impact” undefined. This ruling is a horrible overreach of Federal agencies that could have profound negative impacts on rural and agricultural communities.
In addition to the WOTUS ruling, I recently learned about the water rights issue from the Twin Falls Canal Company, placing a call on the water in our area. Last year farmers and ranchers in our community had to buy water shares in order to irrigate their crops due to the call. Thankfully there is a moratorium on the call, and this year’s snowpack will help alleviate some of the drought conditions we have been experiencing. This is a complicated issue that has the potential to impact cities as well. Water rights are a critical resource and a hotly contested issue.
In addition to these issues, we also need to consider how we will meet the water needs of our growing County. While we can’t stop change, we must find ways to manage it and the resources needed to support it. As the County grows, we must consider new technologies and infrastructure requirements to effectively manage the water we have.
Everyone recognizes water is a critical resource, and we must be good stewards. As these issues arise, I begin to realize how complex the problem is and that an easy solution isn’t readily apparent. Finding the answers will require many competing interests to come together and put the interests of the greater good ahead of personal interests.
As your elected County official, I am committed to ensuring we are good stewards of our water. I have begun by beginning to educate myself on the Federal and State issues impacting our community. I have visited with our Congressional representatives and several Federal agencies about some of these problems. Now, I’m expanding my local network of experts to grow my understanding and be a part of the solution. While I don’t expect to untangle the Gordian Knot immediately, I am confident we can find ways to move forward in creating a place our children want to call home.