Aug 31 2011

Carlson: The Committee of Nine

Published by at 9:16 am under Carlson,Idaho

carlson
Chris Carlson
Carlson Chronicles

On occasion, my counsel has been sought by prospective candidates for statewide offices. (By way of credentials, I have been involved in three successful campaigns.)

I ask them the usual questions:

Why do you want the office?

What is your initial base of support?

Is your spouse supportive?

Do you have a budget and a plan for raising the required money?

What is your strategy for winning?

Who are your key helpers and supporters?

Do you understand the commitment it takes?

Will you accept media training, conduct polls, etc.?

Invariably, though, I ask the one question nine out of 10 “wannabes” flunk: Have you met with any member of the “Committee of Nine” and, if not, how do they plan to introduce themselves to the “Committee of Nine”?

The blank stare this question engenders tells me the person isn’t close to being ready to run.

Most readers will ask the same question. You can bet, however, that every successful major Idaho political figure in the last 50 years knows this group and how influential it is behind the scenes. The “Committee of Nine” is the nine water masters of the major Snake River Federal Irrigation Projects in southern Idaho. The members can make or break most major statewide candidates.

Former Idaho Governor and U.S. Senator Len B. Jordan once described the Snake River as a “working river, the lifeblood of Idaho.” Any candidate for major office who does not understand how that river works, the important role the water masters play, especially in times of shortages, and the primacy of upstream water rights is, pardon the expression, “dead in the water.”

Most of these water masters, coincidentally, are members in good standing of the LDS Church. Many are or have been a bishop. While they never presume to tell anyone how to vote, a “testimonial” to a candidate’s understanding of water law and its importance to the state’s economy is listened to and heeded by many.

It is no coincidence, either, that many directors of the Bureau of Reclamation, the dam building and irrigation project agency created by the 1902 Reclamation Act within the Department of the Interior, just happen to have been Mormon. And while every Interior Secretary will swear their selection of a Bureau of Reclamation director never involved asking about his religion, it is no coincidence when some are LDS given the Church’s historic interest in irrigation.

Neither would anyone argue that Interior Secretary Cecil Andrus’ director, R. Keith Higginson, who also had been Idaho’s director of Water Resources, was not eminently qualified to hold the post. He, too, was a member of the LDS Church.

Let’s just say the critical importance of water, its wise application to land, and its allocation based on several basic principles, such as “first in time, first in use” (The primacy of upstream water rights), has always been sacred script to Mormons from the pioneer days on forward.

It is no coincidence either that every major piece of wilderness or national recreation area legislation for Idaho contains “boiler plate” language affirming the new act in no way supersedes or takes precedence over Idaho water law and the primacy of upstream water rights.

The Hells Canyon National Recreation Area legislation in the early 70s almost hit the rocks when one of its key sponsors, Oregon Senator Bob Packwood, initially refused to affirm the primacy of upstream water rights.

It’s not just the role water has played in agriculture either. One cannot truly begin to understand the multiple uses of water unless they have driven beside long stretches of rivers like the Salmon, Payette, Clearwater, St. Joe, Boise, Lochsa, Selway, Portneuf, Lemhi, Priest, or the north and south forks of the Coeur d’Alene .

Better yet, only by floating the wilderness stretches of the Middle Fork of the Salmon, the main Salmon, the Selway, or the Owyhee rivers does one grasp how rivers were the early highways, providing access into and out of almost inaccessible mountainous areas of Idaho. Floating wilderness rivers also introduces one to how vast Idaho is and the impact to Idaho’s economy by the 10,000 people a year who float down the Middle Fork and the Salmon River systems alone.

The result is that there are new interest groups who depend upon other uses of water and the need to protect it, such as the Idaho Outfitters and Guides Association and the Idaho Conservation League. None of them yet begin to match the power and influence of the Committee of Nine, however.

All, however, underscore to a political aspirant that before offering one’s services they better damn well understand how important water is and always will be to the political landscape of the state.

A native of Kellogg, a former teacher at Kootenai, and a former journalist, Chris Carlson served as press secretary to former Idaho Governor Cecil D. Andrus for ten years. He is the founding partner of the Gallatin Group, is now retired and he and his wife, Marcia, reside at Medimont.

Share on Facebook

Comments Off

Comments are closed at this time.

Share on Facebook

 


The latest tv ad for Idaho gubernatorial candidate A.J. Balukoff.

 

Back in Print! Frank Church was one of the leading figures in Idaho history, and one of the most important U.S. senators of the last century. From wilderness to Vietnam to investigating the CIA, Church led on a host of difficult issues. This, the one serious biography of Church originally published in 1994, is back in print by Ridenbaugh Press.
Fighting the Odds: The Life of Senator Frank Church. LeRoy Ashby and Rod Gramer; Ridenbaugh Press, Carlton, Oregon. 800 pages. Softcover. $24.95.
See the FIGHTING THE ODDS page.


 
JOURNEY WEST

by Stephen Hartgen
The personal story of the well-known editor, publisher and state legislator's travel west from Maine to Idaho. A well-written account for anyone interested in Idaho, journalism or politics.
JOURNEY WEST: A memoir of journalism and politics, by Stephen Hartgen; Ridenbaugh Press, Carlton, Oregon. $15.95, here or at Amazon.com (softcover)

 

 

NEW EDITIONS is the story of the Northwest's 226 general-circulation newspapers and where your newspaper is headed.
New Editions: The Northwest's Newspapers as They Were, Are and Will Be. Steve Bagwell and Randy Stapilus; Ridenbaugh Press, Carlton, Oregon. 324 pages. Softcover. (e-book ahead). $16.95.
See the NEW EDITIONS page.

How many copies?

 
THE OREGON POLITICAL
FIELD GUIDE 2014

The Field Guide is the reference for the year on Oregon politics - the people, the districts, the votes, the issues. Compiled by a long-time Northwest political writer and a Salem Statesman-Journal political reporter.
OREGON POLITICAL FIELD GUIDE 2014, by Randy Stapilus and Hannah Hoffman; Ridenbaugh Press, Carlton, Oregon. $15.95, available right here or through Amazon.com (softcover)

 
 
THE IDAHO POLITICAL
FIELD GUIDE 2014

by Randy Stapilus and Marty Trillhaase is the reference for the year on Idaho Politics - the people, the districts, the votes, the issues. Written by two of Idaho's most veteran politcal observers.
IDAHO POLITICAL FIELD GUIDE 2014, by Randy Stapilus and Marty Trillhaase; Ridenbaugh Press, Carlton, Oregon. $15.95, available right here or through Amazon.com (softcover)

 
 
without compromise
WITHOUT COMPROMISE is the story of the Idaho State Police, from barely-functioning motor vehicles and hardly-there roads to computer and biotechnology. Kelly Kast has spent years researching the history and interviewing scores of current and former state police, and has emerged with a detailed and engrossing story of Idaho.
WITHOUT COMPROMISE page.

 

Diamondfield
How many copies?
The Old West saw few murder trials more spectacular or misunderstood than of "Diamondfield" Jack Davis. After years of brushes with the noose, Davis was pardoned - though many continued to believe him guilty. Max Black has spent years researching the Diamondfield saga and found startling new evidence never before uncovered - including the weapon and one of the bullets involved in the crime, and important documents - and now sets out the definitive story. Here too is Black's story - how he found key elements, presumed lost forever, of a fabulous Old West story.
See the DIAMONDFIELD page for more.
 

Medimont Reflections Chris Carlson's Medimont Reflections is a followup on his biography of former Idaho Governor Cecil Andrus. This one expands the view, bringing in Carlson's take on Idaho politics, the Northwest energy planning council, environmental issues and much more. The Idaho Statesman: "a pull-back-the-curtain account of his 40 years as a player in public life in Idaho." Available here: $15.95 plus shipping.
See the Medimont Reflections page  
 
Idaho 100 NOW IN KINDLE
 
Idaho 100, about the 100 most influential people ever in Idaho, by Randy Stapilus and Martin Peterson is now available. This is the book about to become the talk of the state - who really made Idaho the way it is? NOW AN E-BOOK AVAILABLE THROUGH KINDLE for just $2.99. Or, only $15.95 plus shipping.
 

Idaho 100 by Randy Stapilus and Martin Peterson. Order the Kindle at Amazon.com. For the print edition, order here or at Amazon.


 

    Top-Story-graphic-300x200_topstory8
    Monday mornings on KLIX-AM

    watergates

    ORDER IT HERE or on Amazon.com

    More about this book by Randy Stapilus

    Water rights and water wars: They’re not just a western movie any more. The Water Gates reviews water supplies, uses and rights to use water in all 50 states.242 pages, available from Ridenbaugh Press, $15.95

    intermediary

    ORDER IT HERE or on Amazon.com

    More about this book by Lin Tull Cannell

    At a time when Americans were only exploring what are now western states, William Craig tried to broker peace between native Nez Perces and newcomers from the East. 15 years in the making, this is one of the most dramatic stories of early Northwest history. 242 pages, available from Ridenbaugh Press, $15.95

    Upstream

    ORDER HERE or Amazon.com

    The Snake River Basin Adjudication is one of the largest water adjudications the United States has ever seen, and it may be the most successful. Here's how it happened, from the pages of the SRBA Digest, for 16 years the independent source.

    Paradox Politics

    ORDER HERE or Amazon.com

    After 21 years, a 2nd edition. If you're interested in Idaho politics and never read the original, now's the time. If you've read the original, here's view from now.


    Governing Idaho:
    Politics, People and Power

    by James Weatherby
    and Randy Stapilus
    Caxton Press
    order here

    Outlaw Tales
    of Idaho

    by Randy Stapilus
    Globe-Pequot Press
    order here

    It Happened in Idaho
    by Randy Stapilus
    Globe-Pequot Press
    order here

    Camping Idaho
    by Randy Stapilus
    Globe-Pequot Press
    order here