Irrigation, Water, and Navigation

SHRA has conducted historical research for many water users across the West. Since the mid-1990s, we have written histories and conducted research on multiple watersheds and irrigation projects. We have expertise in the history of U.S. Bureau of Reclamation Projects as well as Carey Act and private irrigation projects.

We have also examined the historic character of water courses, using written documents as well as photographic evidence in order to determine historic stream flow, navigability, presence of certain landmarks or users, fish populations, etc. Our reports have been used in litigation to demonstrate the original intent of various irrigation facilities, historic crops and water demand, and impacts of ground water pumping on surface water users. Specific watersheds and projects include rivers in California, New Mexico, Idaho, Washington, Oregon, Nebraska, Arizona, Missouri, and Kansas.

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Select Past Projects

Surface Water Coalition 2005 Delivery Call (2005-2006)

SHRA provided historical research and an expert report to be used in a dispute between surface and ground water users in south central Idaho characterized as “epic” by water lawyer Jeff Fereday of Givens Pursley, LLC in Boise, Idaho. The report focused on the history of multipleirrigation districts in the area, historical use of their respective water rights, and the history of ground water vis a vis the surface water users.

Pioneer Irrigation District v. City of Caldwell (2006-present)

Pioneer Irrigation District waters thousands of acres of the Boise River Valley south of the Boise River, and has been in existence for more than 100 years. SHRA was hired by the District to research and write the history of the district’s facilities, and provide an expert analysis of the purpose for which the canals and dams were built. Dr. Stevens provided deposition testimony in 2008, and the attorney we worked for wrote about the case here.   Additional information on the case can be seen in this media coverage (Idaho Press Tribune Article).

Payette River Navigability (2015-2016)

In 2015-2016, the Idaho Department of Lands hired SHRA to explore the historic navigability of the Payette River in Idaho. Our researchers examined the history of log drives, boating, and other uses of the river dating to the 19th century. Our report included historic photographs, tables, and maps of the river prior to its present engineered status. SHRA has also conducted research on river navigability in Arizona and California.

For further information, please visit our Case Studies page.