News

“New administration could mean end of WOTUS rule,” Norman M. Semanko in CapitalPress, 2016

Sean Ellis  , CapitalPress
Published on December 19, 2016
Idaho Water Users Association Executive Director Norm Semanko speaks to irrigators Dec. 15 during the Treasure Valley Irrigation Conference. Semanko said Donald Trump’s administration could mean positive results for irrigators, including the end of the Waters of the U.S. rule.

Photo courtesy of Sean Ellis, CapitalPress

Norman M. Semanko, Moffatt Thomas Water/Natural Resources and Environmental Law Practice Group leader and outgoing Executive Director of the Idaho Water Users Association, addressed the Treasure Valley Irrigation Conference, stating that the Trump administration could boost agricultural water users by tossing out the newly rewritten Waters of the U.S. Rule (WOTUS rule).  Norm Semanko said water users are challenged by a seemingly never-ending procession of new rules but he is hopeful that could change under President-elect Donald Trump’s administration.

The list of regulations water users have to deal with “just seems to get worse every year,” Semanko said Dec. 15 during the Treasure Valley Irrigation Conference.

“We don’t know what (a Trump administration) portends for the future but hopefully some things will cut our way,” he said.

Semanko said he’s hopeful the new administration will end the Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers rule on the Waters of the U.S., which is now tied up in court.

Farm, ranch and water groups worry the rule could greatly expand the federal government’s authority over waters and adjacent land not currently subject to regulation under the Clean Water Act.

Semanko pointed out that Trump has said he would eliminate the rule. His pick to head the EPA, Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, has filed a legal challenge against it.

Trump “thinks it’s expansive and doesn’t make sense, which most of us in the water world agree with,” Semanko said.

He told members of Idaho’s irrigation community to look for the new administration to voluntarily pull the rule, which means it would no longer be in effect.

But it’s not enough to just get rid of the rule because the old WOTUS rule is vague at best, he said.

“We need a new rule and this (new) administration can do that,” he said. “It won’t be enough just to get rid of WOTUS. It will need to be replaced.”

Semanko said the Trump administration might also provide some relief from the effects the Endangered Species Act has on water users, including the impact listed fish species have on water in California as well as the operation of the Columbia-Snake River system.

On a state level, the IWUA continues to work with the Treasure Valley Water Users on the issue of whether flood control releases from Boise River reservoirs should count against water users’ reservoir storage rights.

The Idaho Department of Water Resources says they should, while Treasure Valley irrigators say they shouldn’t.

Eric Wildman, the president judge of the Snake River Basin Adjudication, earlier this year ruled in the state’s favor and both sides say the issue could end up before the Idaho Supreme Court.

“The only prediction I would make on that issue is that it will be resolved in the courts or through a settlement,” Semanko said. “I don’t think it will be resolved with legislation.”

Semanko said his board has authorized him to file a legal brief in support of Treasure Valley irrigators if the case reaches the Idaho Supreme Court.

Norman M. Semankosemanko_norm_7421 joined Moffatt Thomas as Of-Counsel in 2011, and he was elected as a partner in the firm effective January 1, 2017.  Mr. Semanko leads the firm’s Water Law, Environment and Natural Resources Law practice groups. His exposure and interest in natural resource issues began early in his career when he worked for the an Idaho senator in the United States Congress.  Mr. Semanko is highly involved in the political arena and served as chairman of the Idaho Republican Party and as a Councilman of the City of Eagle.  He was named Executive Director and General Counsel of the Idaho Water Users Association in 2000 where he managed the day-to-day operations of the association, monitored current water issues, analyzed federal and state legislation and regulations, advocated in the Idaho State Legislature, before Congress, and in federal, state and local agencies, and organized educational seminars and workshops.  Today he is recognized as one of Idaho’s leading experts on water policy.

Moffatt Thomas has been providing legal services to the Pacific Northwest and Intermountain West since 1954.  The firm serves clients in the full-spectrum of business, litigation and regulatory areas.  With Idaho offices in Boise, Idaho Falls and Pocatello, the firm is strategically situated for direct contact with the Governor’s office, the legislature, federal and state administrative agencies, area businesses, and national and international corporations engaged in business throughout the region.  Since its inception over 60 years ago, its current and former lawyers have achieved the highest leadership positions in national, state and local legal and civic organizations.


Leading Idaho Law.  Moffatt Thomas leads the field in litigation, business, banking, insurance, agriculture and more by bringing together many of the top legal minds across Idaho.  More information is available at www.moffatt.com.