Swan Falls Deal Defended
by Pat McCoy
Capital Press, May 9, 2008
Court reaffirms Swan Falls settlement between state and Idaho Power Co.
A ruling issued recently by the judge of Idaho's massive Snake River Basin Adjudication court maintains state control of Snake River water above Swan Falls Dam, and reaffirms the 1984 Swan Falls Settlement with Idaho Power Co.
The decision is a major victory for the state, said Lawrence Wasden, Idaho attorney general.
"The contractual and legislative history left no room for doubt about the outcome of this case," Wasden said. "In essence, the court affirmed the principle that a deal is a deal."
The case was brought by Idaho Power Co., which sued the state to invalidate the state-controlled trust which holds the company's water rights above the minimum flows at Swan Falls Dam, under terms of the 1984 agreement. The company sought a decree placing hydropower water rights in the name of the company.
The agreement "clearly and unambiguously provides that any portion of Idaho Power Co.'s water rights in excess of the minimum flows are held in trust by the state, by and through the governor, for the use and benefit of Idaho Power for power purposes and of the people of the state of Idaho," said the ruling issued by Fifth District Judge John Melanson, presiding judge in the adjudication.
The court rejected Idaho Power's argument that the contract did not provide for a trust.
"It is inconceivable that Idaho Power would enter into a contract with one of the conditions of the contract being that the State pass legislation entirely inconsistent with the body of the contract or the intent of the parties," the judge wrote in his ruling.
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