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Eye On Boise

Rathdrum aquifer protection bill criticized by Hayden Lake lawmaker

When North Idaho Reps. Bob Nonini and Frank Henderson went before the House Resources Committee this afternoon to pitch their bill to protect the Rathdrum Prairie aquifer, they knew it might not be the most welcoming place – southern Idaho lawmakers had made clear in recent months that they don’t want the bill to apply to them. That’s why it was put together to apply only to the one aquifer.

But there was another witness testifying against the bill at the committee hearing: Rep. Jim Clark, R-Hayden Lake. Angering his fellow North Idaho representatives, Clark found lots not to like in the bill, picked it apart, and told the committee, “This needs a lot more work.”

The only other person to testify was Norm Semanko, head of the Idaho Water Users Association and a candidate for North Idaho’s seat in Congress. He wanted the bill amended to make it even more clear it doesn’t apply anywhere but the Rathdrum aquifer.

Nonini, in his pitch to the committee, noted that the Spokesman-Review editorialized in favor of the bill, HB 650, which allows an aquifer protection district to be set up to generate fees for aquifer protection. He called the S-R “a paper I don’t always agree with and a paper which I will say doesn’t care for me one bit.” Clark, from the audience, urged S-R reporter Meghann Cuniff, “Quote, him, quote him.”

The committee put off a vote to Wednesday to look into possible amendments. After the meeting, Nonini said of Clark’s opposition: “It’s because his name’s not on it.”

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Betsy Z. Russell covers Idaho news from The Spokesman-Review's bureau in Boise.

Named best state-based political blog in Idaho for 2013 by The Fix

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