The bizarre Bonner County Property Rights Council (PRC) has issued its first draft “decision” in which they conclude that a simple common sense watershed protection ordinance is “unreasonable, unnecessary, and arbitrary.” How do they come to this conclusion? They simply presume ALL proposed ordinances are “unreasonable, unnecessary, and arbitrary.” Furthermore, as made clear from the eight pages of rambling nonsense in their decision document, no amount of evidence or reason is going to change their minds.

In January, the PRC began its review of a “Watershed Overlay Protection District” approved by the Bonner County Planning and Zoning Commission in August of last year. The overlay is designed to protect public drinking water supplies that pull from surface waters. The new districts would allow a public water supply to identify potential upstream risks and establish best management practices in order to avoid contamination of public’s drinking water supplies.

The PRC, however, renames the watershed ordinance as a “Zone of Coercion Overlay” and frames its operation as allowing “one side of the transaction (Public Water System owners) to voluntarily initiate a process that ultimately results in forcing the other side (upland property owners) to transact and give up their property rights without compensation.” What are these so-called property rights being given up? Essentially, the PRC claims some upstream “property rights” to pollute downstream water.

Crafting an absurd “standard of review,” the PRC states flat out that “The PRC presumes that a proposed government regulation is unnecessary, unreasonable, and arbitrary unless affirmatively demonstrated otherwise.” Of course, the Bonner County Planning and Zoning Commission – the actual agency given actual authority by state and county law to consider land use regulations – determined that the common sense protection of public drinking water was in the best interests of the public and that reasonable regulations were worth implementing. So, evidently “affirmatively demonstrated otherwise” means something different to the PRC.

Indeed, the PRC said specifically that staff reports, testimony from the Idaho Department of Environment, and an extraordinary letter from the Idaho Rural Water Association “did not overcome the PRC’s presumption that the Ordinance was unreasonable and arbitrary.”  According to the PRC, many questions went unanswered. And they add, of the questions that were answered, the answers were unsatisfactory.  In fact, with their minds obviously made up, the PRC spends much of their 8-page document fending off the obvious and clear rebuttal to their ridiculous initial presumption.

It is tempting to try to call out all the craziness in the PRC’s “decision,” but as Mark Twain purportedly said, “Never argue with a fool; onlookers may not be able to tell the difference.” So, instead, we’ll merely note that Bonner County deserves better than this. What is truly “unreasonable, unnecessary and arbitrary” is this ideological layer of bureaucracy preventing common sense protection of public drinking water supplies.