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Avondale Irrigation Dist. v. North Idaho Properties, Inc.

Citation: 8 ELR 20458
No. Nos. 12174, 12482, 577 P.2d 9/99 Idaho 30, (Idaho, 03/15/1978)

Consolidating and deciding two cases, the court concludes that the non-consumptive water rights, reserved by the United States, to the natural flow of several streams in two national forests are limited to the amount necessary to accomplish the purposes of timber and watershed protection. Reviewing congressional legislation relating to the creation of national forests and recent court decisions, the court finds that the water reserved by the United States in the national forests in question does not include amounts needed for the protection and improvement of the entire forest ecosystem, including fish and wildlife, and the forests' aesthetic and recreational opportunities because these purposes are not among those for which the forests were created. The United States may lay claim to the entire natural flow of a stream without exact quantification as a reserved right under federal law if that volume of water can be shown necessary for the accomplishment of the congressional purposes of timber and watershed protection. If, however, the United States cannot prove a strict need for the entire natural flow of the streams for these two purposes, the volume needed will have to be precisely quantified and any remaining water in the streamflow will be available for appropriation. On remand, the trial court must therefore determine the necessary minimum flow to achieve the statutory purposes of the forests in second feet or acre feet so that any excess may be made available for used and appropriation.

A partial dissent argues that it is error to hold that under federal statute the entire natural flow can be a sufficient quantification of the rights of the United States to the waters of the streams; the federal government must state its claimed reserved water rights in specific quantities.

Counsel for State Parties
Wayne L. Kidwell, Attorney General; Josephine P. Beeman, Ass't Attorney General
210 State House, Boise ID 83720
(208) 384-2400

Counsel for United States
Paul L. Westberg, U.S. Attorney
Rm. 693, Federal Bldg., Box 037, 550 W. Fort St., Boise ID 83724
(208) 384-1211

Larry G. Gutterridge
Land and Natural Resources Division
Department of Justice, Washington DC 20530
(202) 739-2740

McFADDEN and BISTLINE, JJ., concur.

SHEPARD, C.J., and DONALDSON, J., concur in Parts I through V.