As President of Last Chance Canal Co. and also the Bear River Water User’s Association (BRWUA) I am writing to urge support of legislation introduced by Rep. Marc Gibbs and Sen. Mark Harris to commence the general adjudication of the Bear River Basin in Idaho. It will provide state funding and protect existing Idaho water rights. After careful study, BRWUA as well as the vast majority of water users support of the adjudication of the Bear for numerous reasons which I wish to explain.

An adjudication will require time and effort from water users and the State and there may be a few conflicts as lawful water rights are sorted out. However, we believe that the many benefits significantly outweigh small burdens for water users in the Bear River Basin.

One key benefit is the opportunity to correct errors and accurately define existing water rights. The Bear River and its tributaries in Idaho were last adjudicated in 1920 in what is commonly called the “Dietrich Decree.” Water right ownership, points of diversion, and places of use have in many instances changed over the past 100 years, and need to be updated to correct many rights not accurately or clearly defined. This creates problems for landowners, lenders, and buyers when land and water rights change hands or when a water user seeks to change how their rights are used. A, adjudication will help solve these problems by establishing a complete and accurate catalog of all water rights.

A second major benefit is the opportunity to take advantage of three statutes that enable water users to update and correct water rights to accurately reflect current irrigation practices. The “accomplished transfer” statute (IC § 42-1425) allows water users to claim their current place of use, point of diversion, purpose of use, and period of use even though it differs from what was previously decreed. The “enlargement” statute (IC § 42-1426) allows water users to claim additional acres than were previously decreed. The “ambiguous decree” statute (IC § 42-1427) allows water???? to claim water right elements that were not defined in prior decrees. These statutes will be extended to the Bear River Adjudication as a part of the legislation package.

A third benefit is to take advantage of the experience and wisdom that presently exist in the water court and the IDWR resulting from the recent completion of the Snake River Basin Adjudication. Many complicated legal issues involving ground water rights, surface water rights, tribal rights, and Federal rights were resolved during the SRBA, establishing precedent that should not need repeating in the Bear.

The time is ripe to adjudicate the Bear which will provide long-term economic benefits to the region as well as protect Idaho water rights for use in Idaho. Utah must find more water for the Wasatch front and is eyeing the Bear to supply it.

Rep. Gibbs and Sen. Harris have carefully crafted the necessary legislation to initiate the adjudication of the Bear River Basin, provide state funding and protect existing Idaho water rights. This legislation has recently received the full support of the Idaho Water Users Association.

Please contact Rep. Gibbs (mgibbs@house.idaho.gov) and Sen. Harris (mharris@senate.idaho.gov) and add your support to ours.

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