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Bill benefits North Idaho water management

| April 3, 2024 1:00 AM

The Idaho Water Resource Board said two pieces of legislation passed by the Idaho Legislature in the 2024 session will enhance water management in North Idaho and southern Idaho.

“Some water users will be affected by these proposed changes,” said IDWR Director Mathew Weaver. “We need to do more research to understand how many water users could be affected. We will officially notify affected water users in the coming months about the change in administrative scope and the impact on their individual water rights.”

One piece of legislation, HB 687, would allow IDWR to petition a district court judge to commence a water rights adjudication in the Kootenai River Basin in North Idaho. 

Local legislators were supportive of an adjudication for the Kootenai Basin to define and confirm existing water rights in district court, an IWRVB press release said.

The Kootenai Basin Adjudication is expected to take five years and cost $3.25 million, using existing IDWR staff to work on the project, officials said. 

Water rights adjudications are currently in progress in the Bear River, Clark Fork-Pend Oreille, Coeur d’Alene-Spokane River and Palouse River basins in Idaho. The Snake River Basin Adjudication, completed in 2014, was the largest water rights adjudication ever completed in the western United States.

Senate Bill 1341, co-sponsored by State Sen. Van Burtenshaw, R-Terreton, and Rep. Jack Nelson, R-Jerome, creates a process for the Idaho Department of Water Resources to expand the boundary of the Eastern Snake Plain Aquifer area of common groundwater supply. 

The bill passed both chambers of the Legislature in a unanimous vote; it was signed by Gov. Brad Little on March 20.