Posted: Thursday, January 31, 2013 12:00 PM
Association says potential legislators support districts
By SEAN ELLIS
BOISE -- A survey of candidates running for Idaho office showed a high level of agreement with the state's irrigators on several important issues.
The Idaho Water Users Association sent the 10-question survey to everyone who ran for legislative and congressional seats in the November election, and 41 percent of the 200 candidates responded.
The responses provide Idaho's water user community a good sense of where potential legislators stand on water issues crucial to them, IWUA Executive Director Norm Semanko said during the Idaho Irrigation Equipment Show and Conference.
The IWUA consists of 300 irrigation districts and canal companies, agri-businesses and other groups from around the state that manage water supplies for more than 2 million acres of irrigated farmland.
Ninety-four percent of respondents opposed additional restrictions on the burning of weeds in and around canals and ditches while only 1 percent supported that idea and 5 percent had no position.
Ninety-three percent opposed the breaching of dams to help federally protected species recover, 3 percent supported that and the rest had no position.
"I am very pleased that among legislators and those running for office, there is a high percentage of agreement with us," said Ron Shurtleff, executive secretary of Lake Reservoir Co.
Shurtleff, watermaster for the Payette River System, said he was particularly pleased to see that 89 percent of respondents supported additional water resource projects such as storage reservoirs and recharge sites. No one opposed that idea, while 11 percent had no position.
"I'm real encouraged to see that type of mentality among those running for office," he said. "As our population grows, that's exactly what we're going to have to do -- figure out how to increase water storage."
Respondents also showed a high level of opposition to treating canals, ditches and drains as waters of the United States under the Clean Water Act. Ninety-five percent opposed that idea and only 3 percent supported it.
"Legislators understand this issue. They talk about it a fair amount," Semanko said.
While 83 percent opposed unauthorized discharges of urban storm water into irrigation canals, ditches and drains -- a question raised because of the city of Caldwell's proposed eminent domain action against Pioneer Irrigation District -- 6 percent supported that and 11 percent had no position.
"That tells us there are still some folks we need to talk to," Semanko said.
Candidates were in strong agreement with Idaho water users' opposition to additional restrictions on the use of herbicides to control weeds in and around canals and ditches, with 90 percent opposing it and 5 percent supporting it.
They also overwhelmingly opposed the establishment of new minimum stream flow water rights in Idaho and the designation of more Idaho rivers as protected and no longer available for development.
While 52 percent supported managing ground and surface water as a single resource under Idaho's prior appropriation doctrine, 24 percent opposed that and 24 percent had no position.