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Early Water Issues and Conflicts in the Wood River Valley

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This is a presentation about water law in Idaho from the 1880s to the early 1900s. It covers the complexities of surface prior appropriation and usage rights. It accompanied a lecture at The Community Library by John Lundin.

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Early Water Issues and Conflicts in the Wood River Valley

  1. 1. EARLY WATER ISSUES AND CONFLICTS IN THE WOOD RIVER VALLEY Battles over Water for Domestic, Agriculture, Industrial Uses Presentation to The Community Library July 16, 2016 John W. Lundin (john@johnwlundin.com)
  2. 2. Left, the author’s great-grandparents, Matt & Isabelle McFall & children, ca 1888, who moved to Bellevue in 1881. Right upper, the McFall’s International Hotel on Main Street built in 1881, which became the premier place to stay in the WRV. It burned down in 1909. Right lower, the McFall Hotel built in 1900, after they moved to Shoshone in 1893. Photos from Lundin collection & the Community Library.
  3. 3. Left, Neil and Katherine Campbell, and sons Stewart & George. Stewart was Idaho’s Inspector of Mines from 1920 – 1932. George was Blaine County Sheriff in the 1920s & 1930s. Right upper, Neil’s blacksmith shop (the first in Bellevue). Right lower, Bellevue’s Main St. 1903, showing the International Hotel, & Neil’s blacksmith shop and livery stable.
  4. 4. PART I – EARLY WATER ISSUES & CONFLICTS IN THE WOOD RIVER VALLEY PART II – RECLAMATION ACT OF 1902 BRINGS FEDERAL MONEY TO BUILD IRRIGATION SYSTEMS August 2016
  5. 5. Water issues have dominated the news in the Wood River Valley in the recent years. Water shortages challenge all users, and climate change presents significant problems for the future water resources. In Feb. 2015, downstream senior Big Wood R. water rights holders issued a water call against upstream users. In June 2015, the IDWR issued a drought declaration for Blaine County. Water shortages and their impact on users are problems that have existed since the first settlement of the Valley.
  6. 6. SILVER RUSH TO WRV BEGINS IN 1880 In the fall of 1879, silver was discovered in the WRV. A major silver rush began in spring of 1880, the year of the “Wood River Boom.” Tens of thousands hopefuls from all over the world poured into the WRV in 1880 and 1881, to seek their fortunes. The Idaho Spokesman ran a tongue-in-cheek ad in 1880, saying “Wanted, the man, woman or child who does not want to go to the Wood River country in the spring.” One writer said that the hunger for gold or silver “is a disease more contagious than measles, and once in the blood it is seldom, if ever, eradicated.” Claims were staked, mines were opened, and towns were formed in the WRV and surrounding areas. In 1881, Robert Strahorn wrote “Wood river is the center of one of the most extensive belts of heavy galena ores in the world.” Another publication said the WRV’s silver belt was “one of the richest as well as one of the most extensive in the world…The Bullion belt and district is the richest yet discovered.” 15,000 people were expected by 1882.
  7. 7. 1881 – 1884: OREGON SHORT LINE IS BUILT TO PORTLAND Wood River Branch Arrives in Hailey in May 1883 As soon the transcontinental railroad was completed in 1869, Union Pacific began planning a new line to Portland, Oregon to take advantage of the NW’S natural resources and its growing trade with the Orient. National economic issues caused a delay in the project. In 1880, Union Pacific decided to build a new rail connection from its main line at Granger, Wyoming to Portland. It would connect in eastern Oregon with a railroad being built from Portland along the Columbia River by Henry Villard’s Oregon Railroad & Navigation Company. The route would go through Idaho, along the Snake River plain, and “follow the path of those who plodded westward along the historic Oregon Trail.” Since the its original UP charter did not permit branch lines, in April 1881, UP incorporated a subsidiary called the Oregon Short Line, to build a standard gauge railroad on “the shortest line to Oregon.” Construction began in 1882 in Wyoming, and was completed to Portland in November 1884. Initially here were no plans to build a branch into the Wood River Valley, but the development of its silver industry caused a change in its plans. UP’s publicist, Robert Strahorn, helped to convince UP to build a Wood River Branch. The Wood River branch was completed from Shoshone to Hailey in May 1883, and to Ketchum in 1884.
  8. 8. Robert Strahorn (1852-1944) & Carrie Adell Strahorn (1854- 1925). Robert was a Union Pacific publicist who toured the NW to publicize the area for a future branch line to Portland. Strahorn convinced UP/OSL to build a Wood River Branch. Both wrote about life in the Northwest. Her book is 15,000 Miles by Stage. Pictures from historylink.org
  9. 9. IDAHO & OREGON LAND IMPROVEMENT CO. In 1881, Strahorn and others associated with the Union Pacific formed the Idaho & Oregon Land Improvement Co. to buy land in advance of the construction of the OSL, where rail-stops would occur. Its owners included Robert Strahorn, Kansas Senator Caldwell (who was president of the Kansas Pacific RR, a UP subsidiary), Andrew Mellon (future Secretary of the Treasury), and others, who knew the route of the OSL in advance. The company bought worthless desert land, platted and developed townsites, constructed irrigation and water systems, and sold lots, making huge profits. The company purchased and developed the towns of Shoshone, Hailey, Mountain Home, Caldwell, Weiser, and Ontario, Oregon. In June 1882, the company purchased the townsite of Hailey, the 2,500 acre Croy Ranch and the 8,000 Quigley Ranch for $100,000. The Wood River Journal said the company “takes the whole loaf.” Hailey was intended to be the terminus of the Wood River Branch of the OSL. Strahorn was given property in Hailey as an incentive for him to convince UP to build the Wood River branch.
  10. 10. Water Was Critical to Early Settlement From the earliest settlement of the Wood River Valley, obtaining water for domestic use, agriculture, and industrial uses was critical. Towns needed water in cities for domestic use, fire-fighting, and irrigation. Farming in the arid Idaho climate required large amounts of water for irrigation provided by canals. Industrial uses included mining, smelting, electricity, sawmills, ice ponds, etc. The Desert Land Act of 1877, provided that any citizen could claim up to 640 acres of federal land in the arid west, but had to provide sufficient water to the land within three years before title could be obtained. This was one of a number of federal laws designed to encourage settlement of the west. Irrigation works were expensive to build and investment companies such as the Idaho & Oregon Land Improvement Co. were necessary to provide the necessary capital. 10.7 million acres of land was obtained under this law in the arid west, and it was the mechanism by which many Idaho towns were settled. It was replaced by the Desert Land Act (Cary Act) of 1894, and later the Reclamation Act of 1902.
  11. 11. Idaho Water Law In 1881, Idaho law required irrigators to post a notice of intended water diversion at the Point of Diversion (POD), state the amount of water claimed, the purpose and place of its use, and how it would be diverted, then record it with the County Recorder at the county seat. “Priority in time securing priority of right,” known as the doctrine of prior appropriation, established priority for water rights. There had to be a “beneficial use” for the water, work had to be begun within 60 days of posting the notice of diversion, and land owners had the right of way through the lands of others for irrigation projects. The Idaho Supreme Court upheld the doctrine of prior appropriation in 1883 & 1890. Water rights could be lost if not used. Idaho’s 1889 constitution provided that water in rivers and streams belonged to the state, but recognized the right of citizens to appropriate water for beneficial uses, by making and application for future water appropriations to the State Engineer whose office was created in 1895. Pre-1889 water right were to be defined and adjudicated through the courts. In 1965, the Constitution was changed and a predecessor to the Idaho Department of Water Resources (IDWR) was established to perform state water planning. The IDWR was formed in 1981. Since 1971, to establish a new water right, an application has to be filed with the state office, and does not become real property until a license is issued. In 1978, the Idaho Legislature declared that Minimum Stream Flows are a beneficial use for the purpose of preserving streams.
  12. 12. Over-claiming of Water Rights Led to “Tragedy of the Commons” While there was a system of registering water rights, there was no control over how much water any individual could claim, and no process to see whether he actually appropriated the water claimed. Many water claims were wildly excessive of what was needed or used, and were not fully utilized. This led to water claims well in excess of the capacity of the rivers to supply them. The prior appropriation doctrine meant the first claimants had priority over later claimants. This led to disputes over water rights and lawsuits where courts had to determine actual water rights and their priority, typically initiated by downstream farmers whose had senior water rights were interfered with by the amount of water taken from the rivers upstream by junior water rights holders . City of Bellevue v. Goble – 1884, determined water rights in Seamands Creek Woodworthy v. Anthony – 1895, determined water rights in the Little Wood River Stewart decree – 1906, provided that in a time of shortage, all water diversions are reduced beginning with the newest and ending with the earliest, so all irrigators share the shortage. Frost v. Alturas Water Co. – 1909, determined water rights in the Malad River System (Big and Little Wood River systems). When there is a shortage of water, water rights for mining get cut off first, then agricultural water rights, then municipal water rights.
  13. 13. Water Rights Domestic use For Cities in WRV
  14. 14. Bellevue’s Land Title & Water Supply Bellevue was platted in May 1880, the town was settled, and title to 242 acres was obtained Nov. 20, 1882, under the Land Act of 1820 & Town-site law of 1844. 300 inches of water rights in Seamands Creek in Muldoon Canyon were claimed in March 1880, for the town of Bellevue. A ditch was built bringing water to Bellevue and a town well was dug on Main Street. After 1880, other parties claimed water from Seamands Creek, including the Wood River Smelter near Lookout Mountain, far in excess of its capacity. Bellevue sued the other water claimants in 1884, in City of Bellevue v. Goble, et. al. After 47 days of testimony, Bellevue was awarded 300 inches of water, and the other claimants were forbidden to interfere with Bellevue’s use of the water. The smelter went out of business as a result. The city’s water rights were later reduced to 150 inches for reasons that are not clear. The city’s water system was not sufficient to meets its needs. In 1887, a franchise was issued to Bellevue businessmen (including Matt McFall) to provide water for the city. They formed the Bellevue Water Co. that built a new system, installed wooden pipes to replace the ditches, and removed the well on Main St.
  15. 15. Map showing Bellevue and Seamands Creek coming down Muldoon Canyon from the east. The pictures on the right show the springs and ponds at the east end of Seamands creek on Ee-Da-Ho Ranch. Bellevue’s water supply comes from springs near here.
  16. 16. Main Street, Bellevue, before 1887. The city well is in the middle of the street. Matt determined International Hotel is on the right.
  17. 17. Bellevue’s Water System Continues to Have Issues Further litigation over Seamand’s Creek water occurred in 1890, over farmer’s rights to water above Bellevue’s water rights, Goble, Brown v. Kimbrough. The parties settled the case themselves, dividing all the creek’s water between themselves above Bellevue’s 150 inches. In 1891, Bellevue sued Bellevue Water Co. for providing insufficient water for fire- protection & other problems. A fire in 1905 highlighted a deficiency in Bellevue’s water system for fire-fighting. In 1908, the city purchased the Bellevue Water Co. and all its assets for $4,800, but no improvements were made immediately. “ $60,000 Fire in Bellevue” in 1909, burned down the International Hotel, the Bellevue Mercantile Co., Neil Campbell’s blacksmith shop, and other buildings. Bellevue’s water system was shut down for repairs being done by Neil Campbell’s son Eugene, who had to ride a horse to the Seamands Creek springs to get the water running. Another fire in 1912 burned down the Central Hotel: “A Calamitous Fire in Bellevue – Two Men Perish, only the Trunks Being Unconsumed – Over $12,000 Worth of Property Destroyed.” “Two Men Burned to a Crisp.” Wood River Times. In 1920, improvements were finally made to Bellevue’s water supply: new access to springs in Muldoon Canyon, new pipe installed, & settling tanks were built after voters approved a bond issue. The new system was finished in 1925. A WPA grant in 1939 was used to replace old wooden pipes with steel ones.
  18. 18. John Hailey played a key role in Idaho’s development. In the 1870s, he ran stagecoach lines from UP’s stop at Kelton, Utah to Boise & Washington, and later into the WRV. He founded the town of Hailey, and homesteaded in the WRV. He was elected as Idaho’s delegate to Congress in 1885, and later was Idaho’s Librarian.
  19. 19. Hailey Township’s Title & Water Supply John Hailey filed a claim to 440 acres in 1880 under the Desert Land Act of 1877. The town was platted in May 1881, and lots were sold. Hailey became the county seat of Alturas County in spring 1881. In June 1882, the town of Hailey and its water rights, and the 2,500 acre Croy ranch & the 8,000 acre Quigley ranch were purchased by the Idaho and Oregon Land Improvement Co. to be the terminus of the Wood River Branch of the OSL, for $100,000. Title to the town was obtained on April 5, 1884, after water was provided for its residents. In April 1881, 500 inches of water were claimed for the Hailey township from Indian Creek, which were sold to the Idaho & Oregon Land Improvement Co. in February 1884. This became the main source of domestic water for the town, and is still used as its municipal supply although wells supplement the city’s water supply in the summer. There was a public well in the middle of main street for residents where Sawtooth Motors is now located, and ditches brought water to city lots. The Indian Creek water right is presently divided between Hailey’s water company and the Indian Creek Ranch Assoc.
  20. 20. Indian Creek north of Hailey, source of water for Hailey’s water supply. Google Map
  21. 21. Additional Water for Hailey and Areas to the South In April 1883, the Idaho & Oregon Land Development Co. claimed 12,000 inches of water from the Big Wood River, diverted 4 ½ miles north of town to irrigate Hailey and six other Desert land claims of 3,500 acres south of town. The Wood River Land & Irrigation Co. was formed in 1882, to dig the Big Ditch to take water from the Big Wood River and transport it to Hailey and other areas. The Alturas Water Co. was formed in 1883, to sell water to Hailey residents. In March 1883, the Big Ditch was dug from the east side of the Big Wood River 4 ½ miles north of town, at Point of Diversion #22, just south of the Starweather subdivision, and ran through Hailey on its east side to irrigate land south of town. It is presently known as the #22 Hiawatha Ditch. The ditch was 14 wide on its top, 10 feet wide at its bottom, and three feet deep. The Frost decision in 1909, found that the canal only diverted 6,000 inches of water (not the 12,000 registered water rights) and reduced the water rights of the owners accordingly.
  22. 22. Strahorn’s Problems Supplying Water for Hailey Strahorn faced difficulties building canals to provide water to Hailey for domestic use, electricity and irrigation. His father was in charge of the workforce digging the canal when “a notorious hard-drinking bully” attacked Strahorn’s father with a whip. When the man tried to draw his gun, workers jumped him and he was disarmed. He cursed “the whole damned Strahorn outfit,” whom he threatened to fix. He bought another gun and went after Strahorn. Strahorn said, “Fortunately the canal spring a leak calling me to Lower Main Street to make repairs. This saved me from bullets, for enroute to me, he met W.T. Kennedy, against whom he also had a grudge, which he promptly proceeded to settle, but before he could get in action, Kennedy shot, killing him instantly.” Strahorn faced similar problems before he obtained title to Hailey. Drunken armed claim jumpers built fences around lots they wanted. When Strahorn’s men pulled them up, the leader put his gun in Strahorn’s stomach and said he would kill him. Strahorn said he would be hanged in 5 minutes if he did, and had his finger on the trigger of his own pistol. After 24 hours, sheriffs from Rocky Bar showed up to disperse the crowd. “This is only a sample of scores of hair- raising incidents …and danger involved in making the wilderness safe and ready for shelter and capitalist.” When Strahorn was building irrigation canals for Shoshone, “volleys of rifle shots whizzed about us from parties concealed in the tall brush nearby,” by those who feared his work would interfere with their rights, and he had similar problems getting title to the town.
  23. 23. Ketchum’s Water Supply The Frost decision held that in Oct. 1883, H.C. Lewis claimed 200 inches of water from Trail Creek for the town of Ketchum, and conveyed the water by the Ketchum Canal, a reservoir and pipeline. This became Ketchum’s water system. This is POD #2 in the WRV. Lewis also claimed 1,700 inches of water in April 1881 for his own 753 acres of land, (POD #1) and obtained 300 inches of water from Warm Springs Creek in 1888 and 1889. The Ketchum Water Supply Co. was formed in January 1889, to supply water to Ketchum, owned by 25 shareholders. Isaac Lewis held 300 shares, and H.C. Lewis and four others held 200 shares. The company provided water to “most of the original townsite east of the railroad right-of-way and the south end of the Bigwood area” through wooden pipes. The city of Ketchum obtained its own water rights later and provided water to areas of the city not served by the company. Ketchum acquired the Water company in the 1970s, and incorporated it into its municipal water system. The original well is SW of Dollar Lake near Sun Valley, off Saddle Road & the Community School road. The city’s water now comes from that well and 5 others that take water from the Big Wood River aquifer. Storage reservoirs provide 3 million gallons for domestic, irrigation and fire protection needs.
  24. 24. Top, two women on a canal from Palmer Lewis collection. This is likely H.C. Lewis’s canal from Trail Creek to his farm. Bottom, canal over Big Wood River from Palmer Lewis collection. Pictures from The Community Library.
  25. 25. Top, Ketchum wellhouse for Lewis’s original water claim on Community School Rd. Bottom, wooden pipes from Ketchum’s original municipal water system, photos from Ketchum Public Works Department.
  26. 26. Water For Agriculture & Industrial Uses
  27. 27. Many Canals Take Water from the Big Wood R. Water from the Big & Little Wood Rivers is heavily used for irrigation and other purposes, and many irrigation ditches and canals were dug over the years for domestic, agriculture, and industrial uses. The Big Wood River District 37 includes the Big and Little Wood watersheds to the Snake River. The portion in the WRV from north of Ketchum to Magic Reservoir, has 75 Points of Diversion (POD) for canals or ditches taking water from the river. From Magic Reservoir to the Snake River, there are 43 PODs. The Little Wood River, from Silver Creek to Gooding, has 96 PODs, with at least another five between Gooding and the Snake River. Some of these PODs are for major canals that take large amounts of water from the rivers for large tracts of land. Others are for small ditches or community ditches that irrigate individual farms or smaller parcels of land. The PODs are numbered sequentially starting from the north valley. POD #1 is H.C. Lewis’ ditch taking water from Trail Creek leading to his farm. POD #2 is the ditch that took water to Ketchum for its municipal water supply. POD 5, 6 and 6a take water from Warm Springs Creek.
  28. 28. Left, Map of Big & Little Wood River Watershed. Right, major canals in Wood River watershed, map courtesy of the Nature Conservancy.
  29. 29. Left, State of Idaho’s website lists 27 major irrigation canals in Blaine County. Right, map from the Idaho Dept. of Water Resources of major irrigation canals & ditches in Wood River Valley. From the north are the Comstock Canal, Mizer Canal, Hiawatha Canal, Justice Canal, Cove Canal, Rockwell By- Pass, Bellevue /District 45 Canal District Canal, Glendale Canal, By-Pass Canal, District 45 Canal, and others.
  30. 30. Canals Taking Water from Streams Around Ketchum
  31. 31. Points of Diversion around Ketchum. Trail Creek. POD #1, the Lewis canal, took water to H.C. Lewis’s farm. POD #2 , Ketchum canal, took water for Ketchum’s water supply. Warm Springs Creek. #F was likely the diversion for Charles Board’s sawmill & farm. POD 6a was Lewis ditch for 80 acres & Guyer Hot Springs. POD #5 is the Rhodes canal for the old Philadelphia smelter site. POD #6 is for the Farnlun farm west of the smelter site. POD #10 is for the Comstock Ditch at the Big Wood.
  32. 32. Industrial Use - Philadelphia Smelter 1882 – Water for Smelter use. The Philadelphia Smelter was built in 1881, at a cost of $500,000, on a 160 acre bench where Warm Springs Creek enters the Big Wood River. It was expanded in 1882, in anticipation of the arrival of the railroad. The smelter claimed 2,000 inches of water from Warm Springs Creek to operate its machinery and dug a ditch from near Guyer Hot Springs to bring water to the smelter (POD #5 – the Rhodes canal). The smelter became the WRV’s largest employer and industrial enterprise. In 1887, a float V-shaped flume was built to replace the ditch, using warm water from Guyer Hot Springs to float logs down to the smelter. The company owned a number of local silver mines, and it operated until 1892, when it closed because of the International Silver Depression. The company also had 40 inches of water rights from the East Fork of the Big Wood River for the North Star concentrating mill dating to 1888, and water rights from Muldoon Creek for its smelter at the mining town of Muldoon in the Little Wood River drainage.
  33. 33. The Philadelphia smelter was located on a 160 acre bench where Warm Springs Creek enters the Big Wood River. Remnants of the smelter can be seen along Exhibition Blvd.
  34. 34. The Philadelphia Smelter was larger than all but a handful of smelters in the country, and “is the most complete smelting works in the West.” It was the Valley’s largest employer, had its highest payroll, and was the biggest enterprise in Idaho Territory. It made Ketchum “the most healthy mining town on Wood River.” Elliott, 1884. Pictures from the Community Library
  35. 35. The Philadelphia Smelter had 2,000 inches of water rights from Warm Springs Creek, built a dam just below Guyer Hot Springs, and dug a ditch to bring water to the smelter propel its turbines. In 1887, a V- shaped flume was built to replace the ditch to bring water and float logs to the smelter. Picture from the Community Library Flume bring water from Guyer Hot Springs to Philadelphia Smelter.Flume bring water from Guyer Hot Springs to Philadelphia Smelter.
  36. 36. Diversion taking water from Warm Springs Creek near the ski lift. This is likely the old diversion for Philadelphia smelter ditch and flume, now used for Sun Valley’s snowmaking.
  37. 37. Industrial Use - Guyer Hot Springs Resorts In 1880, Capt. Guyer & H.C. Lewis filed mining claims covering the hot springs on Warm Springs Creek just north of the present ski lift, and laid out a townsite, Saratoga. Lewis built a bar, restaurant house, a 20 x 40 dance floor, and opened a resort on July 4, 1882. It was a “delightful summer resort” where the “medicinal qualities of the waters have been fully tested and endorsed by many of our citizens,” and are equal to springs in Germany. “A first class bar” is stocked with the best brands of liquor and cigars. “Strangers…should not leave without visiting the springs, one of the greatest luxuries of the country.” The 1883 Alturas Mining Reporter said Guyer Hot Springs “are among the great healing springs of the world,” with a grand hotel, a large plunge and swimming for ladies and gentlemen. The Frost decision said in 1883, H.C. Lewis obtained 200” of water rights from Warm Springs Creek via a pipe to use in his hot springs resort (POD #6a). The resort was promoted by the railroad and it attracted locals and wealthy tourists such as Astors & Goulds who came west by private RR car and visited the resort. In May 1914, a new two-story $25,000 hotel opened with 18 rooms, a beautiful lobby with fireplace, small cottages on its grounds, a large new swimming pool, and a turbine to provide lighting. It was “one of the famous hot springs of the world.” By the late 1920s, it had fallen into disrepair, the owner shut it down, put in a pipe to bring hot springs water to Ketchum, and opened the Bald Mountain Hot Springs Lodge on main street with a large swimming pool using hot springs water.
  38. 38. Guyer Hot Springs are located on Warm Springs Road just west of the Warm Springs ski lift, .5 of a mile beyond the four way stop. They provided recreational opportunities since the early 1880s, and hot water for the Philadelphia Smelter.
  39. 39. Left top, Guyer Hot Springs Resort in 1884. Left bottom, new hotel & pool built in 1915. Left bottom, new Guyer Hot Springs hotel & swimming pool, 1915. Right top, Bald Mountain Hot Springs Motel on Ketchum’s Main Street opened in 1929, (present site of the new Limelight Hotel) Bottom right, Bald Mtn Lodge’s swimming pool using hot springs water brought by a pipe Ketchum. Pictures courtesy of Community Library
  40. 40. Guyer Hot Springs diversion & pipe taking water from Warm Springs Creek into Ketchum for the Bald Mountain Hot Springs Motel. The motel closed in the 1990s, but a number of houses along Warm Springs Road are heated by hot springs water.
  41. 41. In 1888, August Farnlund obtained 280 inches of water rights from Warm Springs Creek for his farm located just west of the smelter. Top left, ditch from creek near west entrance to old Warm Springs Golf course (now dog park), POD #5. Lower left, pipes & pump along dog walk. Right, abandoned ditch at east entrance to dog park.
  42. 42. Comstock Canal, POD #10 on Big Wood R. east of St. Lukes Hospital. The canal crossed HY 75 south of Gimlet Rd. at Timber Gulch, and ends just north of Greenhorn Gulch Rd. 500 “ of Big Wood Water rights dating to 1887, to irrigate 680 acres. Now it carries only Clear Creek water.
  43. 43. Canals Taking Water from Big Wood R. Near Hailey & Bellevue Recognized by Frost Court
  44. 44. Points of Diversion from the Wood River near Hailey, Bellevue, and areas south of Bellevue.. Most of the PODs were in the valley south of Hailey since that is where most of the agriculture took place. The Spring Hill area is on the map’s left, which had a number of creeks and springs where many of the Valley’s early farms were located.
  45. 45. Irrigation Canals in South Big Wood Valley and Little Wood Valley. Map from The Nature Conservancy.
  46. 46. Industrial Uses Near Hailey 1884 – Water for Ice Production. The Purdy ditch diverted 307 inches of water from the Big Wood at POD #25 at the East Fork into the Purdy ditch and into a pond used for commercial ice production in the winter. The Frost decision determined he had sufficient water rights to make 2,000 tons of ice. This is near the Flying Heart Subdivision. 1889 – Water for Electricity. The Idaho Electric Supply Co. claimed 14,000 inches of water from the Big Wood for “power purposes,” brought to the city by the Hailey Power Flume. Its POD was above the Bullion St. bridge. The company formed in 1885, to provide electric power to Hailey, replacing the town’s original power system installed in 1882. The company installed a sophisticated generating plant designed by the Edison Co. of New York.
  47. 47. Industrial Uses Near Bellevue 1907 – Water for Electricity and Milling. In 1907, Irwin Rockwell, owner of Idaho Consolidated Mines Co. that operated the Minnie Moore, Relief and Queen of the Hills Mines west of Bellevue, claimed 50 inches of water from the Big Wood for its new $250,000 concentrating mill that processed tailings from the mines. The POD was on the west side of the river , ½ mile upstream from the Starr Bridge. The “Rockwell Bypass” (later known as Kohler ditch #44) took water to the mill located at the head of Galena Gulch, and delivered water to farms south of Starr Bridge. The Bellevue Light & Power Co. canal (Tail Race) took water to the new Rockwell-White power plant ¼ mile from the mill, which supplied power to the mines and the mill. Its POD was on the east side of the river below Starr Bridge, ¾ of a mile north of Bellevue. The two canals diverted much of the water from the river north of Bellevue.
  48. 48. Idaho Consolidated Mines Mill, built by Irwin Rockwell for $250,000 in 1907 to process tailings from the Minnie Moore, Relief and Queen of the Hills mines in Galena Gulch west of Bellevue. The Rockwell Bypass diverted water from the Big Wood River to operate the mill.
  49. 49. Map on the left shows the Tail Race/Kohler Ditch 44 in green, going from POD #44 on east side of the river to its end near Kirtley St., and the Rockwell Bypass in red from POD #39 on the west side of the river going south. The map on the right shows the Rockwell Bypass going south past Bellevue to its end.
  50. 50. Some of the Larger Irrigation Canals in WRV 1881 – Seamands Ditch, 5,184 inches of water claimed, POD between Star and Colorado Gulches, 3 miles north of Bellevue & 2 miles south of Hailey. The ditch went along the foothills around Bellevue, then south along the divide between Silver Creek and Big Wood River. 1883 – Big Ditch/Riley Ditch/ Hiawathia Ditch, 12,000 of inches of water claimed, POD #22 4 ½ miles north of Hailey. The ditch went to Hailey then past it to irrigate 3,500 (now 2,355) acres of land south of town. It was dug by the Idaho & Oregon Land Improvement Co. 1883- Mizer Canal/ditch, POD #20 & #21, north of Big Ditch to irrigate 580 acres. 1883 – Justus Canal, POD #32, south end of Hailey to irrigate 680 acres. 1884 – Brown Brothers Ditch/ Miller & Packard Ditch/Cove Canal, 10,000 inches of water claimed, POD #33 south of Hailey near the Delta View subdivision. The POD was moved south when the airport was built. The ditch ran 11 miles on the east side of the WRV to Bellevue, then along 8th St. through Bellevue south to irrigate 960 acres of land. 1884 – Whitton Ditch/ District Canal #33, 2,000 inches of water claimed, POD #33a, just below the Brown Brothers Ditch “about a mile south of Hailey,” carried water to areas around Bellevue owned by the canal owners. The ditch also ran under Bellevue’s streets along along 2nd St., and the city council had to pressure the owner to maintain the street crossings for many years.
  51. 51. Big Ditch/ Hiawatha Canal diverted water from a POD 4 ½ mile north of Hailey, taking 6,000 “ of water to Hailey & 2,355 acres south of town. The canal crosses HY 75 north of Zinc Spur, goes east of Buttercup Rd., & a branch goes west into Buttercup. The main canal goes SE back along HY 75. At Fox Acres a branch goes into the Airport, and the main canal ends E. of 75 near the end of the AP.
  52. 52. Brown Brothers Ditch/ Millard & Packard Ditch/ Cove Canal The Brown Bros. claimed 10,000 inches of water in 1884, POD #33 south of Hailey near the Delta View subdivision. Here is how the water right was described in 1884. The purpose of said water is claimed and intended to be used for running machinery, mill use, mining uses, domestic uses, use in business houses, watering stock and for the purpose of supplying water to inhabitants of Village of Bellevue and is to irrigate and reclaim lands sterile and desert lying in Wood River Valley along the course of the ditch by which the same is to be diverted… The ditch was 26’ wide at its top, 20’ at its bottom, and ran 11 miles through Bellevue to the Brown’s land to the south. It was completed by June 1884, to irrigate their land below Bellevue, and “Chinamen began gardening to supply [nearby] mining camps…with vegetables of corn, cabbage, turnips, rutabagas, parsnips, beans, peas, radishes, lettuce, onions, celery, carrots and even watermelons and cantaloupes.” Mary Brown McGonical, Spring of Gladness. Bellevue gave the Browns the right-of-way for their ditch along the east side of town (8th St)., requiring them to make “good and substantial bridges across their ditch,” to keep them in repair, and to put in sidewalks. A ditch connected the Brown Bros canal on the NE side of the city, “and through small open ditches got water to the places needing it in city yards, stores, shops, homes and the school.” McGonical. Bellevue’s city council had to pressure the ditch’s owners to maintain the street crossings for many years.
  53. 53. Map on left shows POD #33 for the 11 mile long Brown Brothers/Cove Canal south of Hailey west of Friedman Airport, then going south crossing HY 75. Map on right shows the canal going through Bellevue, ending just north of Cove Ranch.
  54. 54. Cove Canal site just north of Bellevue, east of Eccles Ranch. From here, it went along the east side of Bellevue, along 6th St., up to 8th St., then through the cemetery, continuing south to just north of the Cove Ranch.
  55. 55. Kingsbury & Madison Canal/Cahoon Ditch/District 45 Canal 1885 – 4,200 inches of water claimed dating between 1884 – 1891, POD #45 on the west side of Bellevue. The Kingsbury & Madison Canal carried water to irrigate land south of Bellevue, east of the railroad right-of-way, south to the Baseline Road. In 1908, the Utah & Idaho Land Improvement Co. was formed and built a dam west of Bellevue (near the present Howard Preserve) to divert 23,000 inches of water into the old Kingsbury & Madison ditch, as part of a plan to develop a large agriculture tract (between 23,000 to 46,000 acres) and a new town south of Bellevue. The land was to be sold for $60 per acre in 40 to 80 acre lots. After the company was forfeited in 1924, the canal became known as the District 45 canal. District 45 Canal splits south of Bellevue with its western branch going south along HY 75 to the Sun Valley Ranch. The other branch crosses under HY 75 and goes to Gannett Rd. There it splits again, with one branch going through the Bellevue Triangle. The eastern branch goes along the east side of Gannett Rd., through Cove Ranch, then ends just past Gannett. There are over 500 separate water rights that get water delivered through the District 45 Canal according to IDWR records.
  56. 56. Bellevue/ District 45 Ditch. Left, Bellevue/ District 45 Ditch, POD west of Bellevue, going south along HY 75 & into Bellevue Triangle. Right, ditch splitting into multiple channels, one going down HY 75 where it appears to join with the By- Pass Canal, ending on HY 75 near Sun Valley Ranch. Other branches go through the Bellevue Triangle.
  57. 57. Bellevue / District 45 Ditch. Several channels go through the Bellevue Triangle, one branch goes along down Gannett Road to end near the town of Gannett. Google Map
  58. 58. Diversion Dam for Bellevue Canal District 45 Ditch west of Bellevue, near the entrance to the Howard Preserve. Picture on the left looks west toward the river. Picture on the right shows the front of the dam and the Big Wood River. Look at the volume of water in the river here at Bellevue.
  59. 59. Bellevue Canal/ District 45 Ditch west of Bellevue, leading south from the diversion dam, along side of the Howard Preserve.
  60. 60. District 45 Ditch south of Bellevue crossing Highway 75. Picture on the left looks west. Picture on the right looks east toward the Bellevue Triangle and Gannett Rd.
  61. 61. District 45 Ditch south of Bellevue off of Gannett Rd. at the southern boundary of Neil Campbell’s farm, south and east of Bellevue . Pictures were taken from Gannett Road. Picture on the left looks east. Picture on the right looks west.
  62. 62. Canals Meet at Campbell Farm South of Bellevue
  63. 63. Left, 1939 Metsker map shows Neil Campbell’s 460 acre farm in Muldoon Canyon east of Bellevue. The farm began at the Ee-Da-Ho Ranch on the east, went up Lookout Mtn. and included two mines and two mill sites in the canyon, went west to the Bellevue cemetery, and south ¾ a mile down Gannett Road. Right, map showing water rights for farm from Muldoon Creek (via the Campbell ditch), the Whitton Canal and the Brown Bros. ditch. The District 45 Ditch was the south boundary of the farm.
  64. 64. Major Irrigation Canals South of Bellevue
  65. 65. Major Irrigation Canals with PODs South of Bellevue Sharp & Abbott Ditch – diverts 4,000 inches of water dating to 1886, from a slough 1 ½ mile south of Bellevue’s train station. POD 49 Canal – diverts Big Wood water north of Glendale Bridge at POD # 49 where Broadford slew enters the Big Wood, irrigating lands west of the river. Glendale Canal – diverts Big Wood water (1884 water rights) from the river north of the Glendale Bridge at POD # 50, irrigating 1,560 acres of land west of the river known as Poverty Flats. There are 59 separate water rights that take water from the Glendale Canal. By-Pass Canal - diverts Big Wood water from the river north of Glendale Bridge at POD #55, and irrigates land east of the river south to Sun Valley Ranch. The river is completely diverted from mid-summer to early spring flooding. A number of smaller ditches take water from this canal. Cain & Powers Ditch –diverts 5,000 inches of Big Wood water dating to 1883, 3 miles south of Bellevue. Brown Bros. Ditch – diverts 1,495 inches of Big Wood water (water rights dating between 1882 – 1903) to the Spring of Gladness Ranch through a 3 mile long canal dug by hand by John Brown.
  66. 66. By-Pass Canal – takes water from the river north of Glendale Bridge at POD #54 and irrigates land east of the river. There are 7 PODs from the Bypass for smaller ditches. The river runs dry from mid-summer to early spring flooding below this diversion.
  67. 67. Map showing By-Pass from its POD #54 north of the Glendale Bridge, running south along HY 75, where it appears to merge with the District 45 Canal, ending just above Sun Valley Ranch where it goes west to near the Big Wood River. Another branch goes east into the Bellevue Triangle. Google map
  68. 68. Big Wood River south of the By-Pass and Glendale canal PODs is empty during summer because of the amount of water diverted. Left, Big Wood River at Glendale Bridge looking north. Right, Big Wood River at Glendale Bridge looking. July 2016.
  69. 69. By-Pass Canal at Glendale Bridge full of water, looking south 50’ east of Big Wood River. July 2016
  70. 70. The green is POD 49 canal that diverts water from the Big Wood River north of Glendale Road at POD #49. The red is the Glendale Canal at POD #50 north of Glendale Road, taking water into area known as Poverty Flats east of the Big Wood River. Google map
  71. 71. These are pictures of Glendale Canal near the Glendale Bridge looking north on right and south on left, west of the Big Wood River. July 2016.
  72. 72. The Spring Hill area of the Bellevue Triangle was where the first food was grown for the WRV because of its good water sources. The maps show the Spring Hill area around the junction of Highways 75 and 20. Crystal, Spring, Fawn, Scorpion, Bullion Creeks & Black’s Slough are some of the water sources. The colored areas on the left hand map shows the old Cheney ranch (author’s relatives). .
  73. 73. Primary Canals Outside WRV in Big & Little Wood R. 43 PODs from Magic Reservoir to the Snake R. Water Rights Recognized in 1909 Frost Decision
  74. 74. Canals Outside of the WRV in Big & Little Wood R. 1882 – Domestic Water for Shoshone . 60 inches of water from the Little Wood R. was claimed for the Village of Shoshone for domestic purposes, which become its municipal water supply. The Idaho & Oregon Land Improvement Co. a dug canal to supply the water to the village. 1891 – Mullins Canal & Reservoir Co., claimed 750 inches of Big Wood water to irrigate land around Shoshone. 1893 – Little Wood Canal Co., claimed 1,600 inches in 1893, and 8,400 inches of of Little Wood river water in 1899, to irrigate land in Marley and Northern Shoshone in the Little Wood Valley. A diversion dam was built, the Cottonwood Canal Dam, and a canal dug through the Cottonwood Slough. 1899 – Big Wood Cottonwood Canal Co., claimed 9,600 inches of Big Wood water to transfer to the Little Wood River to irrigate land in the Little Wood Valley, owned by its 34 shareholders, which included Matt McFall, the Gooding family and others. 1903 – Shoshone Power & Light Co., claimed 3,000 inches of Little Wood water for “power purposes,” to provide the town of Shoshone with water and power.
  75. 75. Irrigation on Matt McFall’s farm outside of Shoshone. The Frost case of 1909 confirmed that the farm has 240” of water rights in the Little Wood River and shares in the Big Cottonwood Canal Co. Pictures show John Lundin and his McFall (Starlin) relatives. John Lundin, Little Wood River, and barnJohn Lundin, Little Wood River, and barn
  76. 76. Campbell Farm in Little Wood Basin Small Irrigation Project Done by One Family
  77. 77. In the early 1900s, Neil Campbell and his sons homesteaded land in the Little Wood basin, built Campbell dam & reservoir, and dug a canal five miles long around the hills to reach their homestead, where the Little Wood Reservoir (built in 1941) is now located. The area is still known as Campbell Flats. The ranch is now part of the Peavey’s Flat Top ranch, or below the Little Wood Reservoir.
  78. 78. Pictures on top show Rigoberto Campbell at the Campbell dam & reservoir in the Little Wood basin, and the Lake Hills headland around which the 5 + mile ditch ran. Pictures on the bottom show Steve Lundin by the old ditch, and the John Peavy and Steve Lundin at the building foundation on the Campbell homestead at Campbell Flats. This is all now a part of the Peavey’s Flat Top ranch.
  79. 79. Frost et. al. v. Alturas Water Co. et. al. 1909 Lawsuit that determined the water rights for the entire Malad River System (Big & Little Wood Rivers, Silver Creek, and their tributaries)
  80. 80. Malad River System. The Big & Little Wood Rivers come together west of Gooding to form the Malad River before entering into the Snake River.
  81. 81. Frost Decision of 1909 By the early 1900s, water rights in the Big & Little Wood Rivers and their tributaries (the Malad River System) exceeded the capacity of the water sources. Questions had arisen over when water rights vested, how many inches of water claimants actually owned, etc. Much of the water was taken out of the rivers upstream, and holders of water rights downstream near Shoshone were regularly denied the use of the water to which they were entitled. In 1905, 20 downstream holders of water rights filed a lawsuit in Lincoln County in Shoshone against 700 + upstream water appropriators, asking the court to determine the water rights of each appropriator and their priority. The case was known as Frost et. al. v. Alturas Water Co. et. al. The plaintiffs alleged that every upstream appropriator was taking water that belonged to them. This was a river system wide law suit that took years to resolve. A Referee was appointed to take testimony in the case, which started in October 1907. Testimony was heard for every claimed water right from the claimant, witnesses to the water use, and others with knowledge of the claim. The records of the case are extensive and can be found at the Community Library, including transcripts of the testimony given, in records from the Ensign Law Firm of Hailey. The Referee looked into each water claim, the size of the ditch used for the appropriation, whether the claimed water was actually appropriated, whether water rights had been abandoned, and related issues.
  82. 82. Frost Decree & Findings The Frost Court made Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law along with a Decree of Water Rights. For each claimant, findings were made about the amount, date of claim, and source of water. Decisions made in earlier court cases were incorporated. Water rights were measured by “inches,” and 50 inches were the equivalent to a flow of one cubic foot per second, as prescribed by Idaho law. The court reduced registered water claims if it found that the claimed amount was not actually appropriated or used. The 12,000 inches of water rights claimed by the Idaho & Oregon Land Improvement Co. for water for Hailey and surrounding areas was reduced to 6,000 inches, based on the amount actually diverted. Most of the claims involved water for irrigation, although municipal and industrial uses were also included. The municipal water systems for Ketchum, Hailey and Shoshone were covered by the decree, although not for Bellevue as those issues had been resolved in prior litigation. Water rights of canal companies, water companies and irrigation companies were determined. Water rights for industrial users such as power/electricity companies, Mining/Milling companies, sawmills, ice ponds, etc. were resolved. Special rules for water rights in dry streams were adopted. When there is a shortage of water, water rights for mining get cut off first, then agricultural water rights, then municipal water rights.
  83. 83. Decree in Frost v. Alturas Water Co., Dec. 17, 1909, filed in Lincoln and Blaine Counties, pages 1 & 2.
  84. 84. Findings and Conclusions in Frost v. Alturas Water Co., 1909, filed in Lincoln and Blaine Counties, pages 1 & 2. The legal description of claimant’s land was included, along with his water rights, date established, and the source of the water. The decision determined water rights for much of the 20th century.
  85. 85. Idaho Department of Water Resources – Created in 1974 Greater State Involvement in Water Regulation
  86. 86. Distributing water among appropriators is an “essential government function.” “The Director has control of the distribution of water from all natural sources in water districts.” Map of Water Districts in and around Big Wood River Valley (District 37), composed of the Big & Little Wood River rivers excluding Camas Creek, Fish Creek, Clover Creek, and Upper Little Wood drainages. District 37’s watermaster is headquartered in Shoshone, and controls the distribution of water in the district.
  87. 87. Snake River Basin Adjudication In 1987, Idaho began the Snake River Basin Adjudication (SRBA) to determine the quantity, priority date, and source of every water right in the entire Snake River Basin. This is a judicial process required by the Swan Falls Agreement of 1984, between Idaho Power and the State of Idaho, to establish minimum water flows to protect hydroelectric generation. This ended decades of litigation between the power company, the state, and Upper Snake River basin irrigators over the utility’s water rights in the Snake River Basin, which includes 87% of Idaho. $60 million had been spent in the process through the end of 2014. In 2004, Idaho and the Nez Perce tribe settled the tribe’s water rights in the Snake River, established by the 1855 Treaty which granted fishing rights on lands granted to the U.S. The tribe has 50,000 acre feet a year from the Clearwater River, and water rights on all federal lands that were once tribal land. The tribe waived all water claims on state or private lands. A $50 million trust fund was established to improve fish habitat and develop water resources. The state obtained authority to establish minimum water flows for 174 rivers and streams that are important for fisheries in the Clearwater and Salmon River basins. The state is divided into 43 basins for water management. By 2015, Over 158,561 decrees re water rights had been issued. in 2015, a Unified Decree was signed signaling the completion of all but 50 disputed water right claims filed.
  88. 88. Part II Reclamation Act of 1902 Making the Desert Bloom Come Back in August
  • ClaudiaTaylorWalswor

    Oct. 7, 2020

This is a presentation about water law in Idaho from the 1880s to the early 1900s. It covers the complexities of surface prior appropriation and usage rights. It accompanied a lecture at The Community Library by John Lundin.

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