Anderson Ranch Dam reservoir
The decision by the Idaho Supreme Court in the groundwater v. surface water case - American Falls v. Idaho Department of Water Resources - awaited for so many months with such trepidation, turned out to be an anticlimax.
And a good deal more limited in immediate application than a lot of people probably figured.
The case was set up as a showdown between the older (senior) water right holders, who had rights on the main surface water sources in southern Idaho, and the newer (junior) groundwater pumpers. The lower court decision, by Judge Barry Wood (a former presiding judge over the Snake River Basin Adjudication), was taken to have sided mostly with the surface water users, and the Supreme Court ruling, which overturned Wood's core conclusions, was thought to side mostly with the ground water people.
But it's a lot more convoluted than that, and the key participants in the case generally, on both sides, seem to have been wise enough to withhold their celebrations.
The decision more simply means that the state's established process for determining the relationship between surface and ground water, and the approach to regulating it, can go forward . . . to the extent it is able.
The decision offers plenty of room for interpretation and legal challenges of various sorts. And in some underlying ways, it was less a reversal of the Wood decision than some might think. If you doubt that, take a look at pages 7 and 8 of the decision, in which the justices (in an unusual gesture) said they appreciated much of Wood's logic, and added, "While this opinion does not reach those same conclusions, we nevertheless accept large parts of the district judge’s analysis and attempt to use his analysis to clarify our interpretation of the CM Rules."
More to come.