Climate Change? Real? Legislature Seems to Think Not

Idaho’s snowpack is overwhelmingly below its 30-year average. Seems like a particularly bad time for our Legislature to prevent the state from preparing our water resources for climate change, but that’s exactly what they are trying to do.

On this beautiful, unseasonably warm, winter afternoon in Boise, the Legislature took up the issue of the State Water Plan. The SWP was officially presented in January with the kick-off of the legislative session. At that time, ICL took a neutral stance on the SWP. But that was then and this is now, and now looks a whole lot different.

This week a secret (yes, secret) subgroup of the House Resources & Conservation Committee put forward its own revised version of the SWP. For a moment, let’s set aside the potential improprieties of secretly amending a plan that was created through years of study and months of public hearings, and let’s look just at the substance of the changes.

The revised SWP  removes most mentions of endangered fish, and it undercuts the state’s ability to responsibly manage for those fish. It removes language that acknowledges the importance of streamside areas in maintaining habitat and water quality. And, it removes every mention of climate change in the entire 88-page document.

All this at a time when Idahoans are concerned about impacts of climate change. As I write this, 17 of Idaho’s 21 water basins have below-average snowpack. I can’t imagine that Idaho’s agriculture and recreation industries aren’t worried about how that translates into less water this summer. But, by attempting to remove climate change preparedness from the SWP, the Legislature is undercutting the state’s ability to prepare for increasingly uncertain amounts of water.

The fight’s not over yet—not as long as there’s a public hearing. The committee will hear testimony next Thursday, which means there is still time to tell your legislators that these kinds of revisions are unacceptable and we need to bring Idaho’s water policy into the 21st century.

Meanwhile, tomorrow’s predicted high in the Treasure Valley nears 60 degrees. Just a month earlier than normal.

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