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Posts published in March 2017

Water Digest – March 6

Water rights weekly report for January 9. For much more news, links and detail, see the National Water Rights Digest.

Santa Barbara (California) Superior Court Judge James Herman ruled against a plan by the Slippery Rock Ranch to pump groundwater for bottling, siting with the Goleta Water District. The judge held in his 30-page ruling that Goleta had a senior and adjudicated water right to groundwater in the area, and the water Slippery Rock proposed to extract “materially contributes” to it. That means, he wrote, the district is “senior appropriator with standing to enforce its claimed rights with respect to sources of water on or underlying SRR’s property that recharge the basin by way of hydrologic connectivity.”

The Bureau of Reclamation will increase flows below Iron Gate Dam to reduce the risk of disease for coho salmon in the Klamath River. Starting Feb. 10 through Feb. 13, flows below Iron Gate Dam will be elevated increasing from approximately 4,000 cubic feet per second to as much as 9,600 cfs. The public is urged to take all necessary precautions on or near the river while flows are high during this period.

The Bureau of Reclamation announced the initial 2017 water supply allocation for Central Valley Project contractors in the Friant Division, Eastside Division and Municipal & Industrial Water Service Contractors in the American River Division. The 2017 water year has been an extreme year thus far, with precipitation throughout the Central Valley on track to be the highest in our historic records,” said Reclamation’s Acting Mid-Pacific Regional Director Pablo Arroyave. “As such, Reclamation is taking an approach to the announcement of CVP water allocations this year that differs from our historic practice.”

Arizona Senator Jeff Flake, who in July won assurances that water stored in Lake Mead would be retained by Arizona, has been named chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Subcommittee on Water and Power.

The field, a year out


Can it be that this far in advance, the main components of the 2018 governor’s race already are coming into view?

Last week gave us some additional clarity, and at least a preliminary picture, enough to hang some thoughts around, is emerging.

So this seems like time to take stock.

Last week, after all, was when three-term Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter confirmed he would not seek another term and would instead support his long-time lieutenant, Brad Little, for the job. That’s no surprise, of course. The probability has been against another run by Otter ever since his last one, and especially since Little announced for the office: Little would never challenge Otter in a primary. Little’s early announcement mirrored Otter’s own early-in approach, soaking up support and building organization that would be denied to other contenders. It’s sound strategy.

In some states, and at times in Idaho, all that might seem like nearly the end of the story. But Otter’s three terms has kept bottled growing pressures in the Republican party, resulting in several more serious primary prospects.

Two of those already are announced. Developer Tommy Ahlquist, who has been centrally involved in downtown Boise’s recent redevelopment but has never run for office before, said last week he will file for candidate status, and will launch a statewide tour. (That followed a complaint, from a source unknown, that he had been campaigning at Republican events while not registered as a candidate.) Business leaders without political experience have not tended to do well in top-line Idaho elections; you’ll find a string of earlier lower office elections and other political dues-paying on the resumes of nearly all of Idaho’s recent top elected officials (Otter being a good example). But every election is its own animal, precedents are made to be broken, and maybe Ahlquist stands out in a crowded field.

There’s also a former candidate for governor in the field: Russell Fulcher, the former legislator from Meridian who challenged Otter in the 2014 gubernatorial primary. He fell short then, with 44 percent of the vote, but that was in what amounted to a two-way race. If he could retain his support or even most of it, might that be enough to prevail in a three- or four-way contest? We know this much: He has been pulling together support for a second run for a long time now.

Last but surely not least: Raul Labrador, the four-term member of the U.S. House who has won with strong votes each time out, and has a firm base of support. He has not confirmed a run for governor, and could still decide otherwise, but the indicators keep pointing in that direction. (A recent one: His pushing of a congressional term limits measure, which might start to look embarrassing for a member of Congress much beyond four or five terms.) He does not seem deterred by the presence of any of the other contenders, or prospects. The probabilities at present favor his entry.

How does Little stack up here? He is broadly well-regarded (though not by everyone in the Republican Party), and will likely pick up much of the support Otter has had. But how does he fare in a strongly-contested four-way race?

Two-candidate races tend to be a lot easier to call than those in which a bunch of candidates are jostling; the number of random factors that could throw a race in one direction or another will multiply. You could make a credible case for any of these four contenders to win a Republican primary.

And for all we know, there may be more. After all, we’re more than a year away, still, from the candidate filing deadline.

Packer John parties


I have been wondering about Idaho and how voters here are so inclined to vote by party. Maybe they are everywhere, but I’m here so I tend to think about Idaho.

A recent trip to visit my daughter in Utah brought Idaho history into this contemplation.

Three quarters of the way back to the Palouse from Salt Lake City on a long late-winter drive I was feeling lucky coming down Goose Creek from McCall to Meadows Valley. I might make it home by dinner with the time change. When I hit a pot hole just past Packer John Cabin I winced, like I had the 50 times before on these winter-worn roads, but I thought I was still lucky. The thump-thump-thump I heard in Old Meadows told me I had a problem. I drove on the flat to the junction; no place to pull off with the snow banks.

Could it be a coincidence that Packer John Cabin was my downfall? It is a little visited Idaho State Park. In 1862 “Packer” John Welch was hauling goods from Lewiston to the Idaho City gold fields but deep snow brought him to a halt. He built the cabin to cache his goods, then came back in the spring to finish the trip.
In 1863, the Democrats tried to meet there to nominate a territorial representative to congress, but their communication was about as good then as it is now, and half the delegates got the wrong date, so they reconvened a couple weeks later to make the nomination.

The summer of 1864 the Republicans chose the midway location to meet. Their stock appreciated the lush grazing, there were fish in the creek and if the small cabin couldn’t hold them all, the big pines formed a fitting auditorium.

In those days, Idaho was populated with many refugees from the bloody Civil War. Democrats hated Lincoln and the Yankees who were attacking the southern “way of life”, though I doubt any of those early miners were slaveholders. Just look to the names of old mining towns: Dixie, Atlanta, Leesburg, and Sesesh (for secession). This faction also included most the southeast Idaho Mormon votes, since their way of life was threatened by a Federal government too. It was generally believed that Democrats outnumbered Republicans in those days. But Lincoln was a Republican and he appointed the territorial governors and judges.
Idaho, even before statehood had a political climate colored by national politics.

The recent changes in political power at the federal level must make Idaho republicans pretty comfortable. I sure wish they could agree on fixing some local problems, like the potholes and narrow shoulders that led to my shredded tire and $500 expense for repairs. We would all be better served if our representatives could keep their focus on the needs of our state.

Maybe the next state Democratic or Republican convention should meet at the small cabin by the creek. The delegates might notice the creek doesn’t have much fish, the grazing is all fenced and privately owned, and the big pines have long ago been logged. And they should watch out for the potholes.

Turning upside down


Something has gone seriously awry in the world. It has given this writer cause for pause but two devils have to be given their due painful though it is. President Donald Trump has done something I’ve been hoping some president would do for years. Almost as stunning, First District Congressman Raul Labrador has also done something I could not agree with more.

While it is hard to understand why President Trump is going out of his way to pick a fight with those that make and use ink by the barrelfull, one can see the guiding hand of Steve Bannon, his senior strategic advisor, in deciding to make war on the media and Hollywood since both are perceived to be the self-annointed elite of the nation, and entitled to be the ruling class.

They lend themselves too easily as a target for one who wants to divide, not unite. Since the Democrats are providing nothing but road kill beside the highway, Bannon has decided destroying the credibility of the media and punching out the pretenders in Hollywood are much more inviting targets of opportunity.

It is a not so subtle form of fomenting class divisions; it pits the haves against the have nots. It just might work if enough people are content to abdicate their responsibility to be informed citizens and would rather just follow “der leader.”

All that said, the President is absolutely corrrect not to lend his office and its prestige to the self-glorification spectacle the White House Correspondents dinner has turned into. It used to be a modet affair with actual writers who covered the president. It was more of an informal get together, off the record, with a little frivolity and good conversation.

It has turned into a three-day bash dominated by the media and publishing world’s management and owners who want to brag about dinner with the president and what cabinet officer or movie starlet they’ve been able to woo to sit at their table. It is a glorified form of show, tell and brag and all administrations are expected to play along as good sports while bowing to the fourth estate’s influence.

It is disgusting. Competition for limited tickets to pre-event and post events is almost as demeaning as the competition for tickets to the dinner itself. The president gets an “atta boy” on this one and his decision not to be a hypocrite and play along is the first encouraging sign that they just might restore the proper adversarial relationship that should exist rather than the fawning and patronizing orgy of self-congratulation and self-praise it has become.

Then this past week Idaho’s First District congressman, Rep. Raul Labrador, expressed his support for term limits. His is a well reasoned approach and should be given careful consideration. Most Constitutional scholars believe the Founding Fathers never envisioned a permanent or semi-permanent ruling elite with lifetime tenure for those who held seats in the House and the Senate. However, with incumbents retaining their seats over 90% of the time, a ruling elite has emerged.

One need look no further than Alaska’s lone Congressman, Don Young. He was elected to the seat vacated by the disappearance and presumed crash of the aircraft flying incumbent Nick Begich from Juneau to a fund-raiser in Anchorage in 1972. Young won the special election in March of 1973 and has been there ever since---that’s 44 years.

Labrador believes 12 years should be the max and he is correct. Something happens at the ten-year mark even to the best members of Congress or the best governors. Many cannot conceal a sense of entitlement, nor can they hide a sense that they’ve seen and know all the problems one confronts.

The voter gets the sense that they think trhey’ve been there and done that, and there’s nothing new to surprise them. Thus, they grow impatient, imperious and they quit listening. Two consecutive terms for a U.S. Senator and three consecutive terms for a governor is more than enough time to solve problems.

Then it is time to head back to the farm or the business and let others take on the challenges.

There is one other wrinkle, though, that Congressman Labrador should include as an amendment to his proposal---the 12 year limit ought to apply to the civil service. If one wants real and truly significant change this is how one breaks the stranglehold the bureaucrats have over the elected and the appointed.

The goal should be to encourage turn-over. Each year we graduate from our colleges and universities thousands of young men and women who are fishery biologists, engineers. lawyers, field geologists, etc., most of whom cannot find a job.

Force turnover in all government levels by setting an upper limit of 12 years and there will be plenty of qualified applicants. One can still have 36 years in their field---12 years at a county or city level, 12 years at the state and 12 years at the federal level.

Everyone would win. So an atta boy to the Congressman and to the President. You’re on the right track.