SJM 101: Ignoring Endangered Species – 2019
ICL's position: Oppose
Current Bill Status: Replaced by SJM 106
Issue Areas: Salmon and Steelhead
The salmon that spawn in the Sawtooth Valley make one of the longest salmon migrations on our planet. Idaho’s salmon swim 900 miles from the Pacific, fighting the current, passing numerous obstacles, and climbing thousands of feet in elevation, to reach their spawning grounds in the streams and lakes of Idaho’s majestic Sawtooth Mountains.
Sadly, water use via ditches and diversions can present one final, and in some cases insurmountable, obstacle to their remarkable journey. Many of the diversions and ditches carrying water away from the main stem Salmon River near Stanley can harm fish by reducing stream flows, impeding fish passage and trapping fish in ditches. That’s why the Sawtooth National Forest is required to consult with fisheries experts before it authorizes water right holders to use public land for water transport. This authorization comes as a right-of-way or an easement, and if endangered species are present, it also comes with conditions intended to protect those species.
To the frustration of ICL and many water users alike, dozens of rights-of-way and easement applications to use Sawtooth National Forest land for water transport have been pending for more than 20 years. Sponsored by Senators Bert Brackett (R-Rogerson) and Steve Bair (R-Blackfoot), Senate Joint Memorial 101 encourages issuance of these important and long overdue permissions. However, it also encourages the Sawtooth National Forest to skip the legally required endangered species review.
Even though it supports issuance of long overdue rights-of-way and easements, ICL opposes SJM 101 because it encourages the federal administration and Congress to avoid Endangered Species Act consultation for the fish impacted by diversions in the Upper Salmon River watershed.