Legality of Icicle Strategy questioned

July 27, 2018

The Alpine Lakes Foundation has attacked the legal basis of all the alternatives in the proposed Icicle Strategy.

Echoing the views of other conservation groups, the Foundation claims in comments filed on the Draft Programmatic EIS (DPEIS) that the entire Icicle Strategy is based on unfounded legal assumptions.

"All the alternatives assume that the [Icicle Peshastin] irrigation district can exercise those rights or make its water available to the extent necessary to carry out the alternatives," the Foundation argues. "Yet, the DPEIS assumes without discussion that the irrigation district has the legal right to do this, when in fact . . . it does not"

The Foundation lists five shortcomings in the irrigation district’s water rights. These are:

  1. The irrigation district has forfeited, relinquished, or never acquired the right to store or release more water from the lakes identified in the DPEIS than it has historically stored or released. The irrigation district never held or no longer holds the right to store or use the additional quantities of water envisioned by the various alternatives.
  2. Any water within the Alpine Lakes Wilderness that the irrigation district has not historically used now belongs to the federal government under the federal reserved water right doctrine.
  3. Any attempt by the irrigation district to store or release more water than it historically has used within the Alpine Lakes Wilderness would violate section 4 of the Wilderness Act, the Alpine Lakes Area Management Act of 1976, and the Alpine Lakes Wilderness Management Plan.
  4. The easements, permits, or deeds granted by the US Forest Service to the irrigation district do not override the foregoing laws, nor do they address or affect the extent of the irrigation district’s water rights.
  5. The irrigation district has never had and currently does not hold any water rights at Upper Klonaqua Lake.

For similar reasons, the Foundation claims that the US Bureau of Reclamation and the US Fish & Wildlife Service also lack rights to expand their use of Snow and Nada Lakes.

In suggesting how to improve the DPEIS, the Foundation urges more emphasis on water conservation, moving the irrigation district’s point of diversion from the Icicle downstream to the Wenatchee River, and most importantly, recognizing the critical role and authority of the U.S. Forest Service in managing national forest lands and protecting the Alpine Lakes Wilderness.

A full copy of the Foundation’s comments can be found in the Library section of this website under “Other Conservation-Environmental Groups.”

The deadline for comments on the DPEIS is July 30.