They probably did the right thing, but even though the policy is clearly right - water rights in the Idaho Panhandle ought to be adjudicated - the execution is likely to be a problem. Usually is when you've got large-scale revolt on your hands, as seems to be happening.
As Idaho moves toward conclusion of the massive Snake River Basin Adjudication - which ought to be called one of the most successful water law actions this country has ever had - the state has started toward a legal adjudication of water in the northern part of the state, the main region untouched by the SRBA. But fears have been stirred, along with regional resentments, and in recent months county officials have pressed for reversal of the law setting up the North Idaho Adjudication, which has been scheduled to get underway . . . oh, around now. The reaction has been strong enough to get regional legislators to call for a slowdown, and the state water resources department to put on the brakes.
And that has looked like the direction of things, except that today the Senate Resources & Environment Committee has decided otherwise - to proceed with the adjudications (apart from one small basin at the far northern tip of the state).
The key lever: Water users in Washington state taking legal action to protect as much of their water rights as possible. Senator Jim Hammond, R-Post Falls: "The problem is that the Washington people are already looking at that as their aquifer. And, in fact, they got a little panicky when we started on this adjudication path and began their own adjudication path to protect themselves as they search for the same water that we have."
Hammond's point was sound, and evidently enough to convince quite a few legislators. Will it be enough to defuse a rebellion, one that could turn political this year?