Owyhees bill hits a new snag

Owyhees bill hits a new snag. By Rocky Barker. Idaho Statesman.

Efforts to move the headwaters of the Snake River into the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System could derail Idaho Senator Mike Crapo’s Owyhees bill.

Once again the person troubling Crapo is Idaho’s other “more famous” senator, Larry Craig.

Craig who voted against protecting the Wyoming Range from gas drilling is also opposing the efforts of Wyoming’s senators to protect the Snake River (and many of its headwaters streams in Wyoming). Craig’s objection is about the stretch of the main Snake downstream from Jackson Lake (actually a reservoir).

Downstream irrigators in Idaho hold almost all the water rights to the Snake River. Craig thinks the protection bill as passed by the key Senate Committee, supported by Wyoming’s senators, will somehow hurt the interests of Idaho irrigators. The problem for Crapo arises if the Owyhee bill and the Snake River bill are put into a public lands legislative package. Democrats may drop the Owyhee bill from the package if the Republicans keep wrangling among themselves.

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More on this: Idaho irrigators fight Wyo effort. Casper Star Tribune.

Added May 11. Additional information on one of the reasons why the Owyhees matter to more than the livestock industry. Idaho, Oregon desert canyonlands offer early-season camping with amazing views. By Pete Zimowsky. Idaho Statesman.



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  1. Nathan Hobbs Avatar

    I dont fully understand what Larry’s issue is here,
    I could see varying amounts of water release to help maintain a healthy enviroment downstream of the Jackson dam (much like what we do with the grand canyon) but either way Palisades dam lies downstream of the Jackson dam and could capture the majority of the runoff right?…little water would be diverted away from Agricultural purposes.

    Either way I think Crapo needs to step aside and let this bill push through and iron out the details if problems arise between the two states and there management plans.

    I think we need to protect the stretch of the snake much more than we do currently, too many devolopers and builders with there eyes on making big money on river front property. If I had my way the stretch of river here in Idaho near heise and kelly’s canyon would receive a higher level of protection than it currently does.

  2. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    When Larry Craig is gone, many things will be possible that are not now, and I think it is a forgone conclusion the Democrats will pick up many seats in Congress . . . not that Republicans can’t be conservationists . . . but their leadership at present hardly allows it. “Sitting on the bench” for a period may allow or cause the Party to change its course.

    Already Crapo’s Owyhee bill is better (or not as bad, depending on your view) because of changes Democrats insisted upon. The same will be true of the Boulder-White Clouds bill if Idaho’s second district House member (Simpson) wants it to become law this year.

    I do think it is interesting that the two states with conservation legislation moving (out of Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming) are the states with 2 Republican senators, not the state with two Democrats (Montana)

  3. Overlander Avatar

    Democrats have been a disaster for Western conservation. Can we blame them for the slaughter of buffalo this winter? I think so.

    But those Idaho irrigators are really nuts. Ultimately, keeping water in the river below Jackson helps them. Unless there’s some irrigation project that diverts water directly from Jackson that’s I’m not aware of.

  4. mikarooni Avatar

    “Democrats have been a disaster for Western conservation.” Oh, really, I’m going to puke over that one.

  5. Buffaloed Avatar

    Sorry, I have to agree with Overlander in a sense. Democrats of today are spineless, even though many people think that Democrats are “environmentalists” they are mostly just corporatists just like the Repiglicans. I seriously doubt that Minnick or LaRocco would be much better than Schwietzer is on the buffalo issue if they were receiving much pressure on the issue.

    Schweitzer, Montana’s governor, has been spineless and has tried to blame the buffalo slaughter on the NPS when the NPS does it at the behest of his state and the livestock industry. He has done NOTHING for the buffalo and it was a big part of his campaign.

    Of course Craig has been a disaster but the Democrats have done virtually nothing during this administration to stop him.

  6. huntingdonpost Avatar

    I left Idaho years ago after Craig became senator because he basically was in the pocket of developers, oil and gas interests, etc. Interior is so screwed up nothing short of a purge will fix it; they ignore any protective legislation there is. I am not against reasonable use of natural resources, but I don’t see why all the guys who have accumulated riches over the last few decades should get all the pleasure and beauty out of the land.

  7. adsensestrategiesadsense Avatar

    I am assuming that Idaho has water issues unlike that here on the eastern side of Canada, which has almost as many ponds, lakes and rivers as it does quantities of dry land (well maybe not, but you get the point…)

    This has not stopped water being a hot political potato. We have had a scandal in Ontario with the Walkerton affair (contaminated drinking supply), and there are still, in this day and age, communities campaigning city hall for services like water and sewer (given that, in the case I am thinking of, taxes are paid to the city, seems reasonable enough to expect!).

    Ultimately, water could well be the new oil, when countries in hotter climes start to fight over it. I remember years ago talk of towing icebergs south for drinking water, so who knows.
    In any event, water will always be a hot topic.

    The Adsense Strategist


Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University. He was a Western Watersheds Project Board Member off and on for many years, and was also its President for several years. For a long time he produced Ralph Maughan’s Wolf Report. He was a founder of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. He and Jackie Johnson Maughan wrote three editions of “Hiking Idaho.” He also wrote “Beyond the Tetons” and “Backpacking Wyoming’s Teton and Washakie Wilderness.” He created and is the administrator of The Wildlife News.

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