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Local emergency disaster declared near Cocolalla for water shortage

by ANNISA KEITH
Staff Writer | January 28, 2022 1:00 AM

COCOLALLA — Bonner County commissioners declared a local disaster emergency in the Arrowhead Ranch Water Association district due to low well production. Twenty-seven residents in the area have been experiencing a water shortage since March 2020.

A water district and homeowners association near Cocolalla, Arrowhead Ranch Water Association officials asked the commission to declare a local disaster emergency so they could pursue funding to resolve the shortage. The district does not have the authority to levy taxes, as they are not a taxing district.

“This will allow us to declare their water shortage a public health emergency and will allow them to contact outside agencies for assistance, such as the DEQ,” said Jessi Webster, deputy clerk and business operations manager for the commission.

Arrowhead Ranch Water Association Inc. is not to be confused with the well known Arrowhead Mountain Spring Water brand based in California.

“I ran this across Bob Howard who is our emergency manager,” said Bill Wilson, county prosecutor and legal advisor to the commission. “We both agreed that it wouldn’t obligate the county in any substantive way. But this is essentially a favor for that HOA so they can at least try to get those funds. It doesn’t necessarily mean that they will. But this was a prerequisite for letting them try.”

The emergency declaration was imposed due to concerns for public health and safety, and will remain in effect for 60 days or until the commission is notified that the disaster has been resolved.

The Idaho Department of Environmental Quality awarded a $15,000 drinking water planning grant to the district in June 2021.

Commissioner Steven Bradshaw provided details about the water shortage in the district and the request to the county.

“Once you hit ten families or 25 people, it automatically becomes a water district according to state law,” Bradshaw said when questioned about the water district. “It’s just a group of homeowners who, for all productive purposes, share a well. Whereas before they were paying the previous owner an exorbitant amount of money for water.”

According to information from the DEQ, a community water district is classified as serving 15 structures or 25 people year-round.

The water district is not a taxing district, and it is not affiliated with the county, Webster said during the meeting.

Residents and officials from the water district could not be reached for comment because no contact information could be found relating to the district or its board members.

Commissioners approved the request declaring a local emergency in the district on Tuesday.