On Thursday August 30 Western Watersheds Project and the Committee for Idaho's High Desert filed a lawsuit under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) in federal District Court in Boise, Idaho against two land owners in the Sawtooth Valley of central Idaho. This case follows 60 day notice of intent to sue letters which went to these water diverters as well as dozens of others in the Salmon River watershed in October 2000.
The land owners are Jack Furey of May, Idaho and Louis Racine Jr of Idaho Falls, Idaho. Lou Racine is an attorney and a former Commissioner of the Idaho Department of Fish and Game. Jack Furey is a well known attorney in Custer County, Idaho.
The lawsuit charges that the landowners' irrigation diversion from Fourth of July Creek constitutes a "take" of listed chinook salmon, steelhead trout, and bull trout, all of which are listed as threatened under the ESA. The diversion in question is the lowest of three on the creek; it is located approximately one half mile above the creek's confluence with the Salmon River on Idaho school endowment land. The diversion, which is unscreened, effectively entrains all fish in the creek and dewaters more than 95% of the flow thereby blocking upstream passage of fish and creating a lethal water temperature increase below the diversion.
The landowners of the upper two diversions on Fourth of July Creek have been willing to reduce their water use to enable fish passage and reduce fish entrainment this year, but Furey and Racine have not been willing to change their irrigation practices.
WWP and CIHD will be filing a motion for a court injunction within a few days to end any water diversion to Furey and Racine's irrigation ditch until this court case is finally concluded.
The groups are represented by attorneys Judi Brawer of the Boise Office of the Land and Water Fund of the Rockies and Laird Lucas of Boise.