As speaker of the House and a fourth generation Idaho rancher, I am always interested in articles on the subject of water. Throughout our history, all Idahoans have appreciated and understood one basic fact: Water is the lifeblood of Idaho. Every Idahoan is a “water user” — and not just when they turn on their faucets.
All of us enjoy the benefits of an adequate water supply in a multitude of ways. So it’s not surprising that when I read articles that contain unsubstantiated economic speculation, I feel compelled to address and correct them.
The lives of all our citizens and the economy of this state have been greatly enhanced and expanded by the development and protection of our precious water resources. The Reclamation Act of 1902 provided vital federal support for irrigating our arid West. It literally changed our way of life in Idaho. Fortunately, that support continues today as the federal and state government partner to maintain a great water system.
Idaho’s leaders are responsibly focused on the sustainability of our vital water resources. We are taking action to assure that there will be a reliable water supply for this generation and generations to come. We can never allow a California-style water crisis to happen in Idaho.
Think about it. Is there any aspect of economic activity in Idaho that does not have some reliance on water? Agriculture, manufacturing, high-tech industries, municipalities, transportation and utilities all depend on water. One of our state’s strongest selling points is our low-cost electric power, made possible by hydroelectric power plants.
The revenue and jobs generated by these entities and activities mean Idaho has the financial ability to fund education, health care, transportation, parks, and Fish and Game programs, to name only a few. To turn our backs on adequately funding water resource projects is to jeopardize the main economic driver of the state’s economy.
Idahoans know that investing in Idaho’s water is investing in Idaho’s future. It has always been true and it will continue to be true. Gov. Butch Otter and my colleagues in the Idaho House and Senate are determined to do everything in our power to continue protecting and supporting the most precious natural resource we have: water.
Scott Bedke, a rancher from Oakley, is serving his second term as speaker of the Idaho House of Representatives.