Every last drop of "their" water

SANDPOINT—In 1997, the Idaho state legislature passed a law to begin a process called "water rights adjudication" and commissioned the Idaho Water Resources Board (IDWR) to oversee the project. It appears that the agenda was driven by claims that Indian tribes were making to water on property that used to be part of treaty reservation lands but had since been deeded to private ownership. At least in the Snake River Basin (SRB) portion of the state adjudication plan, the Nez Perce tribe was being represented by the U.S. Department of Justice and the affected private property owners were being represented by the state of Idaho.

That arrangement, while not very good for private property owners, is perfect for the governments involved. For starters, the term "adjudication" means that something is before the court to be decided—like a bankruptcy or a lawsuit. Since the federal government obligated the assets of the people of the United States as collateral on the national debt (which is approaching $9 trillion), and the nation has been in a state of bankruptcy since 1933 and water is an asset, it makes sense that the federal government is suing to find out the value of the Idaho water resource as part of the bankruptcy.

According to IDWR Director David Tuthill, Idaho "owns" the surface water in the state—including the rain that falls from the sky, puddles, springs, ponds, lakes and rivers; it also includes the water from private wells once it is out of the ground and used for domestic or commercial purposes.

The Indians are still (justifiably) angry over their land being stolen and are happy to take advantage of DOJ attorneys who are using the Indians to steal the land back from non-Indians now that the west has been tamed and roads have been built to the resource wealth of the region.

So, Idaho claims "title" to the water within Idaho—though we purchase property after a title company has determined their are no liens and encumbrances to cloud the title; property is purchased with the understanding that, along with that title, comes the water rights that originated the day a well began producing water.

But the federal government claims a higher claim because our property is collateral on its ever-escalating debts.

What the IDWR wants us to do is fill out a form, file our water rights claims with its office and await the time when our claim will be approved or denied based upon a complex web of criteria that opens the door wide for interpretation—and arbitrary rejection—without a timely possibility of appeal.

A "right" is something that cannot be taken away, but "privileges" exist at the whim of the grantor. Stated more accurately, Idaho property owners have already been betrayed by the state and are being encouraged to trade the water "right" they purchased with their property for the hope that the state will grant them the "privilege" of using state water.

The SRB adjudication did not include domestic wells because the region is an irrigated agricultural area; the water resource there can be controlled fine without unnecessarily increasing irrigators’ irritation by adjudicating their drinking and bathing water, too.

But, in north Idaho, there is very little irrigation; to control the water resource requires "adjudicating" domestic wells. So, the IDWR decided to "adjudicate" domestic wells in north Idaho. The north Idaho adjudication process is scheduled to begin in July, 2010—if the legislature approves the funds in the 2010 session.