A year ago, the Idaho State Legislature authorized a water adjudication for the Bear River Basin area. Last November, the Department of Water Resources petitioned the courts to commence and move forward with the adjudication. Because of that, a hearing has been set to take place Mar. 4 at 1:30 p.m. at the Snake River Basin Adjudication Courthouse in Twin Falls. The hearing will be conducted by Zoom meeting (Meeting ID: 988 5786 2697 — Passcode: 321066). The meeting will be held in order for a judge to decide whether or not the adjudication will, in fact, move forward. If that happens, the adjudication will probably commence sometime in March or April.
A water adjudication is to determine how water has been used “historically” and how it is being used “now.” It is mostly to determine the status of water rights with no recorded water-right number that may be used for stockwater for pasture irrigation, or for most domestic rights, or even for “flood” or “high-water” rights. It is also to determine the unknown status of current water rights with numbers in the 4000s, which were the old “section 243” claims. It is used to determine the status of licenses and decrees, and both accomplished changes and enlargements, as well.
Some will find the adjudication is also to find the unknown status of current reserved water rights under the Winters Doctrine and the McCarran Amendment.
This is all to attempt to achieve justice, and they will achieve certainty where there is doubt now.
After the hearing, and if the judge approves moving forward with the adjudication, there will be a claims-taking period. The Department of Water Resources will have forms available online for you to use to file your claims. You will need to say what your water right is, the priority date, the source of the water, the priority of the water, the owner, and the source period. Then there will be a review of the claims where the Department will see what the basis is and then begin looking for evidence.
Field workers will go out in the field, gather evidence, interview people, and take affidavits. They will then make a recommendation called a Notice of Error Process.
Then a final decree will be issued which puts all water rights on a final standing. This is called a “fresh start.” At that time, you will be able to download your water rights from the Department of Water Resources. The city decrees will all be correct and it will all be inventoried and recorded.
Is it worth filing these claim forms? Yes! Do you have to wait for the adjudication to file a claim? No! There is no time like the present — the past is fading quickly. They already know the water-right elements that will be on the claim forms. All you need to do is give quick, accurate, and solid documentation in affidavit form and have it notarized.
This is what you need to document — All water rights. In other words, when changes took place and what they were, including additional acres and changes in location. Definitely include water rights if the water has been used in the five years prior to commencement of the Bear River Basin Association. Also, document where irrigation actually occurs in each 40-acre tract.
Document beneficial-use rights such as when the water was first put to beneficial use. If it is groundwater, it has to be before March 25, 1963. If it is surface water, it has to be before May 20, 1971.
If you have something that needs to be documented, it needs to say “I say” or “I did” and needs to have an affidavit. The more detail the better to convince the agent doing the review. For example, don’t say, “My dad started sprinklers in 1980.” It needs to say, “I saw dad start using sprinklers on the field when I moved pipe on the high places in 1980.” That affidavit supports a change in use and can be submitted with the claim.
The Department of Water Resources also recommends that you file on everything, even on domestic and stock water rights.
It is important to know these claims are your claims, not the Department of Water Resource’s claims. They don’t give you any advice. Claim what you believe is yours even if you disagree with an agent who may be helping you. The reason for this is to get it all straightened out.
If for some reason you believe the adjudication is not in your best interest, get yourself on the list to speak at the hearing and find out why it distresses you. The judge should know your concerns.
If you need help with your claim or have a question, call Bryce or Roger at Rocky Mountain Environmental Resources, Inc., at 208-524-2353 or the Department of Water Resources at 208-525-7161.