Bills target eminent domain claims for irrigation districts

A long-running dispute in Caldwell leads to legislative action.


House Speaker Scott Bedke introduced measures Thursday that seek to resolve a decadelong water battle in Canyon County that has cost taxpayers at least $2 million.

Bedke said he has been asked to serve as a mediator between the city of Caldwell and Pioneer Irrigation District. The two 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 have failed to agree on how much the irrigation district should be exempt.

Bedke, R-Oakley, introduced bills to ban cities from claiming eminent domain over irrigation districts; one includes a retroactive clause that would undo decisions dating back to 2012.

Caldwell and Pioneer have gotten nowhere in their attempts to settle. Most recently, the city began condemnation action to take over Pioneer’s property, which includes its drains, canals and ditches.

The Magic Valley has avoided this situation, Bedke said, because cities such as Twin Falls and Jerome maintained a friendly partnership. Bedke said he has been trying to use them as an example for Caldwell and Pioneer, to no avail.

If Caldwell succeeds, he said, it could set a dangerous precedent for other cities in Idaho.

“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. “That’s a bridge too far.”

A House committee passed the bills, which now go to the House floor.

Idaho Statesman is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service