Issuing this order was the result of lengthy deliberation and application of facts coupled with Idaho's laws.
Idaho is a prior appropriation state, meaning that large or small, the holder of earlier rights have the right to divert and beneficially use water before later rights are filled. During most years, junior priority surface water rights are curtailed as the supply recedes and there is not sufficient water for those rights and the rights that are senior in priority.
Surface water rights have been administered in this manner for many years. Groundwater rights are subject to the same laws governing administration of the rights as for surface water rights, and the outcome can be harsh - but those laws must still be enforced.
There are mechanisms for the holders of senior priority rights to allow for sharing of the available water supply with junior priority uses during times of shortage. But as the recent drought has extended through a fourth year, holders of senior rights are more aggressively seeking to receive their water through curtailment of more junior rights. This is the recourse provided by Idaho law to the holders of senior priority rights.
I do not take lightly the responsibilities of my position and the fact that the decisions I must make have consequences. I also do not give any weight in my decision making on whether a party does or does not have political connections. I do, however, fully intend to enforce Idaho water laws, which is what Idahoans should rightfully expect of me.
The agreement reached last week to avoid curtailment will give us all the much needed breathing room we need to determine what should be done in the longer term.
— Karl J. Dreher, IDWR Director
April 22, 2004
On September 23, 2003, Rangen, Inc. (which operates a fish hatchery facility that uses water from springs tributary to
Billingsley Creek) filed a priority call for delivery of water with IDWR.
IDWR investigated and determined that there has been a significant decrease in the spring-dependent water
supply that is used at Rangen's fish facility, and that this supply of water is not adequate to satisfy Rangen's water right number 36-02551 bearing a priority date of July 13, 1962 which authorizes a maximum diversion rate of 48.54 cfs.
IDWR also determined that the diversion and use of groundwater in Water District 130 authorized by
water rights that are junior in priority to the Rangen water right number 36-02551 cause material injury to that right.
On February 25, 2004, the IDWR Director issued an order requiring curtailment of junior priority rights
in Water District 130 effective April 1, 2003 unless certain actions are taken to provide 16,000 acre feet of replacement water directly to Rangen Inc. or 26,500 acre feet of water as that can increase spring discharges.