By Reader Staff
The Idaho Department of Water Resources has pushed back against a YouTube video circulated by Bonner County resident Chad Catron, who the agency claimed fronted “erroneous information,” suggesting the state is angling to strip residents of their private property rights.
“IDWR officials want to confirm that the adjudication process is underway, and there is plenty of time to file water rights claims. IDWR officials also want to reassure the public that the purpose of the adjudication is to document and protect water rights held by water users,” IDWR officials stated in a media release.
“The Clark Fork-Pend Oreille River Basin Adjudication enables existing water users to claim the quantities and priority dates for their water rights and have them recognized by an Idaho Court decree. Confirming the priority date matters because, in times of water scarcity, water users who are first in time are first in right, under Idaho water law.”
Catron took to his YouTube channel — a rural lifestyle and politics vlog titled “North Country Off Grid,” which has 119,000 followers — to suggest that “Idaho grabs your water rights!!” in an 11-minute video so far viewed by about 30,000 people.
In the video, Catron makes many claims about government overreach, stating “registration leads to confiscation” and that the Clark Fork-Pend Oreille River Basin Adjudication process is a step toward state control of water rights with no power of appeal by water users — claims that the IDWR countered are patently false.
“Water users can file water rights claims online anytime or wait until they receive a notice in the mail,” IDWR stated. “Notices are being mailed to landowners in sub-areas of the Clark Fork-Pend Oreille River Basin through the first half of 2022. Water users are not required to file water right claims until they receive a notice from IDWR.”
According to the department, the adjudication process “enables existing water users to claim the quantities and priority dates for their water rights and have them recognized by an Idaho Court decree. Confirming the priority date matters because, in times of water scarcity, water users who are first in time are first in right, under Idaho water law.”
Rather than a power grab, IDWR stressed that its adjudication process is intended to “catalog and verify all surface and groundwater uses claimed in the Clark Fork-Pend Oreille River basins,” culminating in a report to District Court regarding elements of each water right. The court then decrees the legality of the water rights.
IDWR stated that it is mailing notices to as many property owners as possible, though many water users within the assessment area are unknown — “IDWR has records for about 2,700 water rights on file Clark Fork-Pend Oreille River drainages. It is expected that up to 9,000 water right claims will be filed in the Clark Fork-Pend Oreille River Basin Adjudication,” department officials stated.
By Idaho law, a “notice of claim” is required for all water uses.
“However, owners of small domestic and/or stock water rights may choose to file a claim now or wait until later in the process,” IDWR stated.
To file a notice of claim, go to idwr.idaho.gov/water-rights/adjudication/nia/cfprba. Property owners can file a claim online or on a hard copy form and submit the claim by mail.
Water users also can make an appointment with a representative at the IDWR regional offices at the following locations:
IDWR, northern region, 7600 Mineral Drive, Ste. 100, Coeur d’Alene, ID 83815; phone: 208-762-2800;
IDWR, state office, 322 E Front St., Boise, ID 83720-0098; Phone: 208-287-4800.
For more information, contact Evan Roda, water rights supervisor, Adjudication Section, 208-762-2800.
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