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Governor, Lt. Governor release statements on groundwater agreement

BOISE, Idaho (KIFI) - Idaho Governor Brad Little and Idaho Lt. Governor Scott Bedke both released statements Thursday morning on the agreement made to end the water curtailment order from the Idaho Department of Water Resources.

Governor Brad Little's statement:

“Just like we’ve done over and over, Idahoans came together, resolved differences, and found a path forward to protect farmers and our supply of water for the year. 

"All along, our goal has been to comply with the law, which includes the Idaho Constitution, Idaho Code, and the approved mitigation plans agreed to and entered by Idaho’s water users, while ensuring farmers have the water they need in every part of the state.

“I have heard repeated calls for me to step in and stop Director Weaver from moving forward in administering the law. Doing so would violate the Idaho Constitution and create a risk of handing control of our water over to the state courts, or worse the federal courts, or worst U.S. Congress. Instead, we chose to work together on a solution.

“I sincerely appreciate all the stakeholders and user groups for their hard work. I especially want to thank Lt. Governor Scott Bedke, a widely recognized technical expert in water, for answering my call to assist in the negotiations. Lt. Governor Bedke proved once again he is a leader who can bring folks together and find a workable solution.

Our farmers and ranchers in every part of the Eastern Snake Plain who were facing water uncertainty this irrigation season deserved our undivided time and attention to find a solution. That is why I’m so proud of everyone involved in this process. I knew when we put everyone in the room, we could do this and get it done. 

"However, we recognize we still have a lot of hard work to do. We will be okay for this year, but we all agree we need a better plan in the out years to protect our farmers and ensure Idaho maintains our water sovereignty. We remain committed to working with all water users in Idaho to ensure we have a sustainable supply of water for this generation and future generations.” 

Lt. Gov. Scott Bedke's statement:

“The past few weeks have been difficult for everyone affected by this water crisis. The many hours of discussion and negotiation have highlighted areas of agreement as well as areas of deep disagreement among water users in the region. I appreciate that our southern Idaho surface water and groundwater users were able to put aside their differences and come together to create an equitable solution that guarantees no water is shut off, no Idaho laws are broken, and the crops already in the ground will be ready for harvesting."

“But it’s imperative that those same parties understand their work is not finished.” 

“We absolutely cannot go into another growing season without arriving at a mutually agreeable mitigation plan. There are still a number of significant details to work out before we can arrive at a solid, workable plan. We have the remainder of this year to come up with such a plan, so we won’t find ourselves in this same situation next June.” 

According to 2024’s temporary agreement, all surface water and groundwater users in the Eastern Snake River Plain Aquifer will need to create and agree to a new water right plan that adheres to the Idaho Constitution’s prior appropriation doctrine of “first in time, first in right.” Per this new agreement, a more permanent plan between senior and junior water right holders must be reached by early this fall. 

“I’m a fourth-generation Idaho rancher and farmer, and my roots run deep into Idaho’s soil. So all Idaho farmers are important to me – and vitally important to our state economy and to every citizen. All Idaho farmers deserve to know what their water allotment will be each year so they can meet their business and contractual obligations,” the Lt. Governor said.

Water is our most precious natural resource, and we absolutely need to find a fair long-term solution that guarantees a predictable water supply into the future. It is the responsibility of all water users to leave the aquifer healthy for generations to come,” Bedke said. “As Lieutenant Governor and as an Idaho farmer, I am willing to use my office and my experience to facilitate the ongoing negotiations that will be necessary to get there.”

Article Topic Follows: Idaho

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