The city of Caldwell, Idaho, and the Pioneer Irrigation District have fought for years over urban stormwater drained through Pioneer’s canal system. Pioneer argues that it doesn’t want to be held liable for poor water quality coming from the city and thus be found in violation of the federal Clean Water Act. The two parties, however, have failed to agree how much the irrigation district should be exempt.
House Speaker Scott Bedke introduced legislation that seeks to resolve a decade-long water dispute that has cost taxpayers at least two million dollars. He said he has been asked to serve as a mediator between the two. Caldwell and Pioneer have gotten nowhere in their attempts to settle the matter themselves, and instead have battled in court. Most recently, the city began condemnation action to take over Pioneer’s property, which includes its drains, canals and ditches.
Bedke introduced two bills on the issue to the House Ways and Means Committee, but the bills were essentially the same. They both would ban cities from claiming eminent domain over irrigation districts, but one bill includes a retroactive clause that would undo decisions as far back as 2012. “For a city to condemn an irrigation district and then turn around and run it as an irrigation district is certainly counter to my way of thinking,” Bedke said to the committee. “That’s a bridge too far.”
The concern is that if Caldwell succeeds, it could set a dangerous precedent for other cities in Idaho. So far, the committee has passed the bills. They now go to the House floor.