Cost-sharing bill for repair of wells to be discussed again Wednesday

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In the Senate Resources & Environment Committee on Monday, Director of the Idaho Department of Water Resources, Gary Spackman spoke regarding Senate Bill 1001, which would amend “existing law to remove obsolete rulemaking provisions regarding a cost-sharing program for the repair or plugging of wells,” by amending Idaho Code section 42-1607.

Spackman said the original proposal eliminated some time periods that were already expired and that there was never an appropriation for the cost-sharing program within the statute.  Spackman then informed the committee that “fruitful” discussions about additional proposed changes to the bill’s language had recently taken place. He said there had been some agreement among parties. He said he had also discussed the issue with the executive branch, the governor’s office.

The bill specifically addresses artesian wells. Sen. Dean Mortimer (R-Idaho Falls) asked the director to explain the history of why there would be a cost-sharing program in statute for privately owned wells. Idaho Code section 42-1607(3) reads: 

“For the period of July 1, 1987, to June 30, 1992, the director of the department of water resources shall promulgate rules to implement a cost-sharing program to assist owners of wells which have been ordered repaired or plugged pursuant to this subsection. The rules shall provide that up to fifty percent (50%) of the cost of the repairs or plugging shall be paid by the department of water resources based on an applicant’s ability to pay and moneys available for this purpose.”

Director Spackman replied that during that time, between 1987-1992, there was a “high anxiety” of the spring snail being listed as an endangered species. He said the spring snail required a habitat of hot springs. Spackman said there is an “open inventory” of artesian wells in our state, but there is a question about how many wells have actually been repaired.

Senator Steve Bair (R-Blackfoot) expressed concern about the draft amendment because he preferred the original language.

Sam Eaton, legal counsel and special assistant for Governor Brad Little’s office, spoke briefly to indicate the governor’s office did not propose the cost share appropriations, but did participate in discussions with the Department of Water Resources.

Spackman returned to the podium to clarify that the proposal and proposed amendments to the language did not arise from the governor’s office, but from “third parties,” and that the governor’s office did not encourage the re-insertion of any language about a cost-share or any applicable appropriation.

Sen. Johnson (R-Moscow) indicated there was no name on a draft amendment given to the members of the committee.

Sen. Guthrie (R-Inkom) made a motion to hold the bill until Wednesday, January 23rd, in order to obtain more information regarding potential changes to the language. The committee voted unanimously to hold the bill to the date certain. The chairman asked Director Spackman to present all available information to the committee on Wednesday.

 

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