Water Users follow panel's recommendation against condemnation

The Idaho Water Users Association approved a resolution against condemnation against irrigation districts prompted by Caldwell’s eminent domain lawsuit.

The state’s largest and most powerful water group and its executive director Norm Semanko can now take “all steps necessary” to stop Caldwell or others from using condemnation to take existing irrigation and drainage facilities, water rights and storage water from irrigation districts or canal companies. The likely means legislation will show up this year.

The resolution also asks its member, Caldwell to withdraw its eminent domain lawsuit against Pioneer Irrigation District, which has been locked in a legal battle over stormwater draining. Like all irrigation districts, Pioneer has the legal upper hand when negotiating with Caldwell and talks have broke down, Caldwell says because Pioneer’s attorney benefits from the lack of compromise.

Pioneer officials say they are ready to talk but that it is Caldwell that has not been flexible. The Water Users, not surprisingly, take Pioneer's side.

“It was clear to our membership that this type of forced takeover of irrigation and drainage systems should not be pursued.,” said IWUA President Lynn Keetch of Montpelier. “Irrigation entities and towns and cities around this state have a long, proud history of cooperation in their efforts to resolve problems in a cooperative fashion for the benefit of Idaho's residents.”

Caldwell said Semanko, who is of counsel at Pioneer’s law firm Moffatt Thomas, has a conflict of interest and should not be involved in the issue. Semanko said he has no conflict.