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© 2015 IWUA
Idaho Water Users Association
California Holding Idaho, Other Western States Water Hostage
By Norm Semanko, IWUA Executive Director
A dominant theme washing over Capitol Hill in the waning days of the session centers on how Congress can effectively address the diverse and legitimate needs of the many Western States confronting historic drought and water issues. There are nearly two-dozen legislative proposals from both Democrats and Republicans tackling everything from invasive bark beetles damaging forests to wildfire suppression funding.
Drought in Idaho and across the West has caused billions of dollars in impacts this year alone and is predicted to cost billions more in the coming years. Scientists now say huge carbon effects in our forests will last years after the drought ends.
Our elected officials have taken notice.
Senators Mike Crapo (R-ID) and Michael Bennet (D-CO) are pushing the Prepare, Ready, Equip, and Prevent Areas at-Risk of Emergency (PREPARE) Wildfires Act that provides targeted investments for wildfire mitigation to reduce the size and scope of fires.
Representative Raul Labrador (R-ID 1), helped pass a drought relief bill in the House this summer that would benefit Idaho, but it was coldly received in the Senate.
Unfortunately, California Senators Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer responded with an alternative bill they wrote with the help of 12 environmental activist groups that would benefit California. However, it would do little for other Western states and would actually expand California’s environmental mandates to other states.
By some government estimates more than 93 million Americans are now impacted by the Western drought. At least ten Western states are falling victim to drought conditions and receiving USDA drought relief: Arizona, California, Idaho, Kansas, Nevada, Oklahoma, Oregon, Texas, Utah and Washington. More than ten others around the nation have been similarly designated. The impact of the drought ripples across the nation, which has a vested interest in food prices, the security of our food supply and the economy at large.
In response, the U.S. House of Representatives sensibly sought to bundle a Western States package of measures into a comprehensive plan to address drought as a single crisis demanding a federal and regional approach. A comprehensive package solves many states' problems rather than dealing with them piecemeal. As important as California is, and despite its historic drought crisis, a California-centric approach must end.
This is no small task. And nothing short of a unified, bipartisan commitment should be expected, involving leadership from both the House and Senate.
The drought is regional, and it is much bigger than California. Any fix should address the needs of the West, not just one state. The sooner congressional delegations across the West band together and start treating the drought crisis as an issue of national significance, the better the West, Idaho and the nation will be —- even California.
2016 WaterSMART Grant Program Unveiled
Grants of up to $1 Million Available for Water and Energy Efficiency Projects
Applications Due By January 20, 2016
IWUA One of 130 Organizations Calling on Congress to Pass Drought Legislation
The Idaho Water Users Association is one of more than 130 Western water user organizations, commodity groups, and state farm bureaus that have signed on to a letter to U.S. Senators, urging that a bipartisan approach be employed to produce compromise legislation that can be passed by both the Senate and the House, and signed into law by President Obama this year.
IWUA is organized to promote, aid and assist the development, control, conservation, preservation and utilization of the water resources of the State of Idaho and to cooperate with similar organizations in other states. IWUA represents irrigation water users, municipalities, hydropower, aquaculture, agri-businesses and businesses interested in the perpetuation of wise water use in Idaho and our nation. The Idaho Water Users Association consists of approximately 300 irrigation districts and canal companies, agri-businesses, public water supply organizations, professional firms and individuals from around the state that manage water supplies for more than 2 million acres of irrigated Idaho farmland.