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Posts published in December 2017

Water Digest – December

Water rights weekly report for July 17. For much more news, links and detail, see the National Water Rights Digest.

The Bureau of Reclamation has released two funding opportunities for fiscal year 2018 through its Drought Response Program, which is part of the Department of the Interior’s WaterSMART program. These funding opportunities are available for entities to develop drought contingency plans and build long-term solutions to drought.

The U.S. Senate has confirmed Brenda Burman as the U.S. Department of the Interior Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner. She is the first woman to ever lead the Bureau.

Seniority in water rights is in many places a precious asset, but not a guarantee that the right won’t be taken away. That may happen in the case of Martha Carr, who lives in Burbank, California but owns property in South Dakota. He was the eventual inheritor of Robert Wittke, a settler who had filed for the right at French Creek near Custer in 1878.

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality has held off until at least mid-December intervention in a water use battle over the San Saba River, where are landowners say that upstream farmers have been over-pumping water.
They maintain the upstream users have been pumping in excess of their permitted water rights, and have asked for a watermaster to control that use.

The Bureau of Reclamation and State of Utah are initiating negotiations for a water exchange contract, which proposes exchanging the state’s assigned Green River water right for use of Colorado River Storage Project water released from Flaming Gorge Dam. The negotiation meeting is scheduled for Monday, December 4, 2017, at 1:00 p.m. at the Dixie Convention Center, 1835 South Convention Center Drive, St. George, Utah.

Will the Governor’s Drought Interagency Coordinating Group recommend to Governor Ducey that he add the approaching “water year” to the State’s lengthy string of official drought years? Or will the panel recommend that the official dry spell designation end in Arizona, thus following in the footsteps of California, where that state’s drought designation was lifted in the wake of its extraordinarily wet winter? Considering that much of Arizona remains in the same long-term state of drought it has experienced since the mid-1990s, the ICG’s recommendation for maintaining the declaration was not the toughest of calls, as it turned out.
 

Idaho Briefing – December 4

This is a summary of a few items in the Idaho Weekly Briefing for December 4. Interested in subscribing? Send us a note at stapilus@ridenbaugh.com.

Representative Mike Simpson discussed the issue of fire borrowing during a House Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee hearing with Chief of the Forest Service, Tony Took. Specifically, Simpson emphasized the need to fund wildfires like other natural disasters.

Finding strange, non-native creatures living in the Boise River has nearly become a tradition, or at least, a recurring incident, and Idaho Fish and Game would like to see it end. In a recent case, Fish and Game crews surveying the Boise River near Warm Springs Golf Course discovered a freshwater shrimp commonly known as “grass” or “ghost” shrimp that are native to the lower Mississippi River.

Essential services like hospitals and water treatment depend on energy distribution to ensure reliable and continuous operations. As the power grid evolves, becoming more connected and responsive, those new, smart devices can introduce greater cyber vulnerabilities. To address this challenge, the power grid test bed at the U.S. Department of Energy’s 890-square-mile Idaho National Laboratory has been transitioned to a more adaptive architecture.

Governor C.L. “Butch”Otter on November 27 said that Chief Operating Officer Bobbi-Jo Meuleman will become director of the Idaho Department of Commerce on January 1 when Director Megan Ronk departs to lead business development efforts for Idaho Power Co.

Avista Corporation said on November 21 the preliminary results of a special meeting of shareholders to approve the proposed acquisition of the company by Hydro One Limited.

Twin Falls on December 1 held the grand opening of the new Twin Falls City Hall with guided tours, building dedication, and Tree Lighting.

PHOTO Winter season at Lolo Pass Visitor Center, located on the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests along Highway 12 at the Idaho–Montana state line, will begin Saturday, December 2. (Photo: Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests)
 

How about listening (for a change)?

mckee

North Korea’s budding developments in nuclear weaponry coupled with its belligerent intransigence to world pressures for non-proliferation presents a significant risk to the entire world. These are not happy times, and most desperately hope that something can be done.

But mislabeling this tiny nation as a terrorist state is the wrong way to go.

Our President has already exacerbated the unfolding situation by an inexplicable stream of insults and derisive comments aimed at Kim Jong-un, North Korea’s dictator. He has confused the developing situation even worse by causing inconsistent and confusing diplomatic declarations to emanate from the Whitehouse, the Department of State, and the Department of the Defense. It does not appear that there is any coordination by President Trump or any of his Whitehouse spokespersons with either Secretary Mattis or Secretary Tillerson, as Trump repeatedly contradicts statements emanating from both.

He has deliberately cut the legs out from under Secretary Tillerson every time Tillerson appeared to be attempting to open channels for diplomatic discussions with North Korea, despite this being where the solution has to be found and despite this being what China’s Xi Jinping is advocating.

The upshot here is that circumstances in North Korea continue to appear unstable, and our action of unilaterally listing it as a terrorist state will not be helpful.

Shortly before setting out on his trip recent trip through Asia, Trump finally declared that he intended to allow China’s Xi Jinping to take the lead in working out a solution to the North Korea situation. This is a step that most experts in Asia affairs believe essential if any long term solution is to be found. Most noted with interest that once Trump made this declaration, the provocative actions and messages emanating from North Korea appeared to slow to a crawl. There were no tests or threats of tests of either missiles or weapons for some time, and no provocative tweets from the leader, Kim Jong-un. It is as if Kim was watching to see what China would propose and how Trump would respond, and was giving it all a chance by his inaction.

Trump, however, could not keep his mouth shut and has not kept out of Xi Jinping’s way. Our President continues to deride Kim Jong-un personally in in tweets and in speeches throughout his Asian tour. He continues to pressure Xi Jinping to impose harsher economic sanctions upon its neighbor. Finally, Trump recently announced that the United States would return North Korea to its list of “State Sponsors of Terrorism,” thereby paving the way for harsher economic sanctions to be imposed unilaterally by the United States.

By this action, the United States links North Korea with Syria, Iran and the Sudan, all notorious hot beds of radical Islam, fostering terrorist activities by al Qaeda and ISIS and their offshoots. There is no evidence that North Korea has any interest in radical Islam, or any connection to the activities of al Qaeda or ISIS.

To many knowledgeable students of Asian affairs, listing North Korea as a terrorist nation is a huge mistake. Although North Korea is a brutal dictatorship with few if any saving characteristics, it does not fit the description of a sovereign state sponsor of terrorism, and mislabeling the country will make diplomatic resolution of the problems that are actually presented that much harder. Trump has repeatedly expressed the importance of other nations demonstrating “respect” for the United States, but he has no understanding of the importance of the United States reciprocating with a demonstration of respect for others.

In particular, Trump clearly has no comprehension of the importance of “face” to the Asian culture. North Korea was insulted when George Bush lumped it together with the problem countries of the middle-east, referring to them all in an address to Congress as the “Axis of Evil.” The insult sabotaged efforts then to re-open negotiations towards nuclear non-proliferation. Trump’s actions today re-ignites the same insult, and may have the same result.

North Korea got itself put on the terrorist list once, for the 1987 incident of blowing a civilian South Korean airliner out of the sky, killing all aboard. It had also been selling weapons to known terrorist groups and harboring known terrorists who had fled to North Korea and sought sanctuary. North Korea renounced all terrorist activities shortly after being placed on the list, and kept itself out of this caldron of trouble until finally, in 2008, then-President George W. Bush de-listed it. This was as part of some attempts by the U.S. to move North Korea back into the non-proliferation pact nations, and was in exchange for North Korea’s agreement to dismantle a nuclear facility at Yongbyon. Although further attempts to get North Korea under the non-proliferation pact were unsuccessful, Bush did not renege on his agreement to de-list North Korea from the terrorists list.

Throughout all of Obama’s term, the United States repeatedly considered requests to put North Korea back on the list, but declined. The episodes raised as grounds for re-listing the country as a terrorist nation were considered military actions, not terrorist, or not sufficiently connected to terrorists activities. The decision of who to add to the list is exclusively that of the United States; this is not an international list in which any other country participates. The terms are not defined. The United States can do what it wants.

Kim Jong-un has consistently repeated the same explanation offered by his father and grandfather for building and maintaining a nuclear weapon capability: that he is not a terrorist but only intends to defend his country and the Kim legacy from being overrun by the West. It is plain wrong-headed diplomacy to lump North Korea in with al Qaeda, ISIS and the Arab nations supporting radical Islam, or with ISIS directly in the sponsorship of terrorist activities. The world’s particular immediate problem with North Korea is centered exclusively on its potential for developing a working nuclear weapon delivery system and the potential for a thermonuclear disaster. This is universally considered to be a military threat by a nation at war, not a potential terrorist activity.

The basic logistical requirements and the technical demands of sophisticated nuclear weaponry take any real threat of thermonuclear weaponry out of the realm of the terrorist entities. It is conceivable that terrorist groups might make use of nuclear devices that are less sophisticated – the so-called dirty bombs that might fit in a suitcase – but this technology is already widespread and not particularly exclusive to North Korea. There is no actual evidence that has been made available to the public that North Korea has any significant interest in these low-level terrorist activities. The world generally does not consider North Korea to be a threat through support of radical Islam, nor from any sudden and unexpected participation in terrorist activities there. From all appearances, its entire effort has been towards the development of thermonuclear devices and intercontinental delivery systems capable of reaching the entire world – which by definition and practical application is considered to be a national military endeavor.

It is time to overhaul our thinking in this area from the ground up. Get a big table set up and invite Kim Jong-un to come sit at it. Give Kim the stature and recognition he requests as a world leader on the nuclear stage. Consider, with the interests of China and Russia in mind, conditions under which North Korea may continue to control its arsenal of weapons for purposes of national defense. Examine the potential for economic development of North Korea, rather than economic oppression, as a more productive force for encouraging change. Leave the issue of reunification alone, to be dealt with over time by the people of the peninsula working independently and without external pressures.

Finally, after over 63 years, replace the general’s truce and get a peace treaty up to end the damn war. Then we can bring the tiny and unnecessary token combat force we have stationed over there home.

Maybe it’s time to take our foot off Kim’s neck and our thumb out of his eye and actually listen to him for a change.
 

The don’t knows

stapiluslogo1

If I were managing the campaign of one of the Republican gubernatorial candidates - or of those in the first congressional district - I’d be heavily concerned about what the polls aren’t showing.

Which is to say, the people who haven’t yet decided.

Start with how long these campaigns have been going on already: A long time.

Lieutenant Governor Brad Little announced a year and a half ago, in June 2016. Developer Tommy Ahlquist announced in February of this year - about 10 months ago. Representative Raul Labrador announced in May, about half a year ago, but he was widely thought likely to run well before that, and long considered kind of a candidate-in-waiting alongside the others.

Over most of this year, the candidates have been campaigning as if election day were two weeks away. Between town meetings, candidate forums, advertising and more, this is a lot like the kind of campaigning you’d expect to see just before the season is winding up (instead of still half a year yet to go). And not only that: They have had the field to themselves. These candidates haven’t had to compete with attention for candidates for president or Congress. All the political oxygen has gone to them.

Point being, these candidates have had an ideal opportunity to soak up as much support as possible in these last few months. If politically-interested Idahoans haven’t made up their minds about them by now … well, just what are they waiting for?

That’s the leadup to the new poll from Idaho Politics Weekly (of Zions Bank) which shows Little getting 21 percent support, Labrador 17 percent and Ahlquist 14 percent. Those numbers taken by themselves simply indicate a competitive race. But all three are far behind the top-runner: Don’t Know, which pulls 36 percent support.

If I were campaign manager for any of these candidates, I’d be devoting a lot of thought to answering the question of what exactly these people need to know to let loose of their support.

The situation in the first congressional district, where Labrador is leaving an open seat and room for a pile of candidates, is a little different but similar enough to draw some related conclusions.

There, former Lieutenant Governor David Leroy announced in May (about as soon as Labrador shifted to the governor’s race), and former legislator Russell Fulcher entered the next month, but after having spent the months since August 2016 running for governor. Legislator Luke Malek joined the contest in August, and others have been in for a while too. Idahoans certainly have had plenty of opportunity by now, in December, to figure out who these guys are.

In a mid-October poll (also from Idaho Politics Weekly), though, few had. The number broke at 17 percent for Leroy, nine percent for Fulcher and seven percent for Malek - but that meant more than two-thirds were undecided. (Could that have influenced the recent entry of Canyon County legislator Christy Perry?)

What does this mass of undecideds translate to? Might it be as simple as: “Ain’t time yet to vote, so don’t bother me”? Unexcitement about the candidates? Actual lack of needed information?

That last doesn’t seem likely. But figuring out the answer to who wins the primary may co0me out of figuring out the right cause of all those undecideds.