• David Frazier's memoir of Vietnam, "Drafted!", is multilayered - from the days of war in the 60s to return visits as a photography - and as complex as the place itself.
From local to national, to around the world. From inside the home to speculative. From fact to fiction - though we do take care about which is which.

Water rights weekly report for January 9. For much more news, links and detail, see the National Water Rights Digest.

A special master on February 14 sided with Georgia in its dispute with Georgia over water rights in the Apalachicola River, Chattahoochee River and Flint River.

Despite objections from many water suppliers that drought conditions have ended, the State Water Resources Control Board this week voted unanimously to extend emergency water conservation regulations throughout California.

Dropping water levels in Kenya’s Lake Turkana following the development of dams and plantations in Ethiopia’s lower Omo Valley threaten the livelihoods of half a million indigenous people in Ethiopia and Kenya, Human Rights Watch said on February 14.

The Idaho Senate has voted to confirm four members of the Idaho Water Resource Board who were reappointed to new four-year terms by Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter. Idaho Water Resource Board Chairman Roger Chase of Pocatello was confirmed for a third term; Albert Barker, a Boise attorney, was confirmed for a second term; Vince Alberdi of Kimberly, retired, was confirmed for a third term; and John “Bert” Stevenson of Rupert, retired, was confirmed for a second term.

A measure that would have let Wyoming state agencies negotiate for water rights in Lake DeSmet failed on February 15 in the state Senate.


This is a summary of a few items in the Idaho Weekly Briefing for February 6. Interested in subscribing? Send us a note at stapilus@ridenbaugh.com.

The Bureau of Land Management Challis Field Office and U.S. Forest Service Salmon-Challis National Forest are developing a draft plan for the Jim McClure-Jerry Peak Wilderness and are soliciting public comments.

Citing the stress on many rural county budgets, Idaho Senators Mike Crapo and Jim Risch joined 78 of their colleagues in sending a bipartisan, bicameral letter to the Office of Management and Budget calling on it to provide funding for the Secure Rural Schools program in the President’s upcoming budget request that will be submitted to Congress.

The Sawtooth National Forest is soliciting public comment in response to a proposal by the City of Ketchum, the City of Sun Valley, the City of Stanley, Blaine County, and the Idaho Conservation League to establish the ‘Central Idaho Dark Sky Reserve’ on both public and private lands within an area that includes the Sawtooth National Recreation Area, portions of the Ketchum Ranger District, and the cities of Stanley, Ketchum, and Sun Valley.

The State Oil and Gas Regulatory Exchange, an innovative regulatory improvement program created under the States First Initiative by two state-based organizations, finds Idaho’s oil and gas regulatory structure to be mostly in line with the regulatory practices of other oil and gas producing states, and provides guidance for Idaho as its regulation of oil and gas exploration, drilling and production continues to evolve.

Senator Jim Risch, chair of the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, released the following statement regarding the Senate confirmation of Linda E. McMahon to serve as the Administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration.

(photo/Homestead Ministries, the Boise Rescue Mission and The Ambrose School in Meridian at their Feed the Need event on February 10. This event incorporates crops grown in the Pacific Northwest and packaged by 500 students in one day. (photo/Governor Otter)



There’s a good short piece in Publishers Weekly about Mike McDonald, a nature photographer who decided to self-publish a picture book about the (seemingly) unlikely subject of wildlands near Chicago. The book has done well.

PW asked McDonald what advice he would offer other self-publishers. He offered several ideas. One was to listen to the experts, but apply individual judgment. He says he was advised to stick to an e-book format for his book. For a picture book? I wouldn’t advise that even for an all-text book, but his counsel to apply personal assessment is solid.

Likewise the idea of trying to pre-sell copies of a book where possible. (I’m guessing he may have found organizational support for his nicely-wrought regional picture book.) Good advice if you can do it, though most authors may not be able to.

The point worth expanding on (and this one caught me since I’m working on a book about how to publish on a shoestring) was this: Be willing to spend money, notably “Hire at least one editor, just like every great writer in history.”

Certainly getting a good editor to work through your book is good counsel. Every writer can use one; it’s damn near essential. (Readers can pick up quickly on when a book is written sloppily enough that it hasn’t been edited; that’s been a top complaint of e-book buyers for years.) And hiring a good editor will cost you some money, sometimes in the lower four figures.

But if you’re strapped, there may be options. Cast your net around your social network; you may be able to find help for discount, or even for free. Do you know an English teacher or a newspaper editor? They may be able to help.

Spending some money, wisely, can be a good thing to do. The “wisely” part is key; there are endless ways to throw money away in book publishing. There was a time when I would have said that advertising was high on that throwaway list, but it’s not that simple. A number of authors have build steady, solid business on the back of carefully crafted and tested Facebook advertising (for one example).

Sometimes, things that work may be unexpected. Deciding where to spend can be one of the more difficult decisions in publishing.

Maybe start with this: Do all you can for free or close to it, first. Then you’ll find, when you can press that no further, you may have a little more money available where you need it.

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This is a summary of a few items in the Idaho Weekly Briefing for February 6. Interested in subscribing? Send us a note at stapilus@ridenbaugh.com.

H20 was the big topic in Idaho last week – first in colder form, as heavy snowfall that in some places threatened to break all-time snowfall records, and later as rain and snow melt that led to widespread flooding, mainly in the southern part of the state.

The House Education Committee voted on February 9 to remove references to climate change and human impact on the environment from a new set of science standards.

The Canyon County Board of County Commissioners announced on February 8 their plan to keep the Canyon County Fair at its current location in Caldwell for the foreseeable future.

The Gateway for Accelerated Innovation in Nuclear said on February 9 the availability of fiscal year 2017 funds for small business vouchers to assist applicants developing advanced nuclear energy technologies who are seeking access to the world class expertise and capabilities available across the U.S. Department of Energy’s national laboratories complex.

Vista Outdoor Inc., a major employer at Lewiston, reported diminished operating results for the third quarter of its Fiscal Year 2017, which ended on January 1.

Citing Idaho law and the State Water Plan, the Idaho Water Resource Board unanimously approved a resolution Monday opposing additional fish-passage requirements on the relicensing of the Hells Canyon Dam complex.

PHOTO Heavy snowfall early in the week turned, in many places, to flooding later on in the week. (photo/Idaho Transportation Department)



No author is an island, or at least should not be.

Above the commonplace and never-disputed pieces of advice – in this case, because it’s so sound – is that every author needs to have at least one person who will give the book a sound external edit. That’s one, or more.

Before it gets to that point, when the manuscript is beyond a first draft and starting to look as if it actually seems to be coming together, there’s space for another good outsider to offer some help. This would be the beta reader.

Many people are more familiar with beta testing in other contexts. I’ve beta-tested some software over the years, for example. Most large corporations, planning a big product rollout, first test it to see how audiences react. Movie producers do it too.

This is different from a line edit, which is the removal of error and sometimes a reorganization. What you’re looking for here is a reader’s reaction: Does this thing work? Does it grab you? Does it entertain or inform or otherwise serve its purpose? Is the purpose worth the reader’s time?

Basic questions.

Mark Coker, the founder the e-Book site Smashwords, wrote a fine piece on book beta readers for Publishers Weekly, published a little over a month ago. It’s worth reading in full.

Coker (focusing here mainly on fiction, though most of the points are more widely applicable) suggests a dozen or two dozen beta readers, if you can get them. Social media is the main route he proposes for finding them – simply putting out the call and making the request, often to friends of acquaintances, to help ensure a layer of brutal honesty where needed.

He advises not to simply send out copies, but encourage people to apply. (The applications, he said, might be set up on Google forms.) The application can be attached to a survey form (or, the survey can be attached to the ms) with specific questions and space for answers. I like the idea of a link to an online survey, a SurveyMonkey kind of thing.

Taking the results from that survey, an author should be able to pick up useful feedback – in most cases useful enough to tinker with the book.

If you can get the readers, get honest reaction from them, and analyze their reactions intelligently, there’s almost no way your book won’t wind up the better for it.

books columns

This is a summary of a few items in the Idaho Weekly Briefing for February 6. Interested in subscribing? Send us a note at stapilus@ridenbaugh.com.

The money race gets well underway for the 2018 Idaho governor’s contest, while incumbent Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter goes internationally viral with his defense of the Trump Administration’s priority for Christian refugees over others.

The GOP primary to succeed retiring Gov. Butch Otter got started a while ago, with both Lt. Gov. Brad Little and ex-state Sen. Russ Fulcher announcing their candidacies last year. Little brought in $340,000 from July to December, and he added $50,000 of his own money. That’s far better than Fulcher, who lost the 2014 primary to Otter 51-44; since he announced in late August, Fulcher hauled in just $50,000.

Senator Jim Risch on February 1 introduced the Greater Sage-Grouse Protection and Recovery Act of 2017, legislation allowing states to implement their own specific conservation and management plans to protect greater sage-grouse populations and their habitats, in lieu of federal management. Original cosponsors of the bill include Senators Mike Crapo, Dean Heller (R-NV), Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Mike Lee (R-UT), and Steve Daines (R-MT).

Micron Technology, Inc. on February 2 announced the retirement of Chief Executive Officer Mark Durcan.

The Boise City Council on February 1 endorsed a resolution highlighting the city’s long-standing role as a welcoming community and a community of refuge for those fleeing violence and persecution from conflicts around the globe.

A recently completed audit shows logging operations examined on private, state, and federal lands in Idaho overall were 96% compliant in applying laws designed to protect water quality.

The seventh annual ACHD revenue and expense report details more than $1 billion in spending on transportation within each city and Ada County since 2002.

PHOTO Idaho Fish and Game is feeding big game animals at nearly 110 sites this winter and expects to spend about $650,000 on the effort (photo/Department of Fish & Game)


Water rights weekly report for January 9. For much more news, links and detail, see the National Water Rights Digest.

A Kansas court has closed permanently two wells operated by the company American Warrior in light of a lawsuit filed by a local senior water right holder, the Garetson family. That extends a temporary injunction that had been in place, ordered by District Court Judge Linda Gilmore, since 2013.

The Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation on January 14 issued a preliminary water right permit for Montana Artesian Water Company, which would prospectively allow it to withdraw large amounts of water from the Deep Artesian Aquifer through a well.

The city of Calistoga, California, on January 26 prevailed in a challenge to its municipal water supply rights.

The town board of the Colorado city of Windsor voted on January 23 to buy a large batch of water rights – priced at $2.1 million – to maintain nearby Lake Windsor and levels of current water use in the city. Windsor is a community of about 20,000 people.

The documentary film “Water & Power: A California Heist” was shown at the Sundance Film Festival in Utah in late January.
Director Marina Zenovich visited communities in the San Joaquin Valley where water disparities abounded. As a review in the Salt Lake Tribune said, “where locals can’t get clean tap water. However, in the corporate agribusinesses near those towns, there’s plenty of water to grow almonds, pistachios and pomegranates.”



Sydney Duncombe, a long-time professor of political science at the University of Idaho, died in 2004.

This year, I published three of his books. And they’ve been selling; not by the truckload, but selling steadily nevertheless. There’s an audience.

Goes to show there’s never such a thing as too late to publish.

Well, almost never. There are some factors worth considering first.

Sometimes books simply go unheralded for a while. In this case, Duncombe, who turned novelist after his retirement from the university, self-published several books which did not get much exposure beyond his friends and family. Some people who knew him understood the books were out there, but few ever saw them. There was little reference to them on the web; Amazon occasionally has had a few used copies for sale, but that’s about it.

So why get into publishing these books now?

Part of it is that Duncombe is still – in certain Idaho circles – a well known and even memorable figure. When time came to write forewords for the books, some of the state’s top recent elected officials stepped forward to help.

Part of it is that the books were pretty good reads. If on one hand I wouldn’t necessarily class them with this year’s top national award winners, on the other hand people close to and interested in Idaho will find them breezy and even enlightening reading.

And the enlightening part was the other important element. Duncombe was after telling enjoyable stories, but he also had points to make and things to say. He didn’t tray out of his stories to editorialize, but his stories made points useful to today, and in some cases almost frighteningly pertinent.

(And from a publisher’s perspective, there was this: The chain of author rights is intact, and the heir was more than cooperative in bringing the book back in new format.)

And these are some of the elements, I think, that go into the question off whether to pull a book out of the past and send it out to the public again. Is it a solid book – a solid story or work of non-fiction? Does the author still have an audience – or would have one with a little push? Is the book somehow pertinent today? Is there something worth saying today?

If so, it may be worth putting back out there.


Water rights weekly report for January 9. For much more news, links and detail, see the National Water Rights Digest.

Jon Steverson, the top administrator in the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, in January resigned after legislative complaints about exploding legal bills in the state’s water war with Georgia. He will depart on February 3. Steverson will go to work for the law firm Foley Gardner, which is one of the four private firms the state hired to prosecute its claims in the water case.

Canamex Resources Corp. said on January 24 that the Nevada Division of Water Resources has granted it an extension through 2017 for a subsurface water right for the Bruner Gold Project located in Nye County, Nevada.

The Idaho Department of Water Resources has ordered a reduction on water use by holders of about 70 rights holders in the eastern part of the state. They were not participants in a groundwater mitigation program.

The documentary film “Water & Power: A California Heist” was shown at the Sundance Film Festival in Utah in late January.
Director Marina Zenovich visited communities in the San Joaquin Valley where water disparities abounded.


This is a summary of a few items in the Idaho Weekly Briefing for January 23. Interested in subscribing? Send us a note at stapilus@ridenbaugh.com.

Work settles in at the Idaho Legislature while winter weather rages outside the Statehouse dome. Local agencies start to struggle with the snowfall and the risk of flooding in some places.

Southern Idaho’s historic winter of 2016-2017, with record amounts of snow and cold temperatures, translates into higher electricity use for most Idaho Power customers.

Senators Mike Crapo and Jim Risch have introduced legislation to establish an additional federal district judgeship in Idaho for the first time in more than sixty years. Idaho is one of only three states (North Dakota and Vermont are the others) with only two authorized judge seats for the entire state. In contrast, the Central District of California and the Southern District of New York each have 28 authorized judgeships. If passed, the Crapo-Risch legislation, S. 209, would add a third judge to the District of Idaho.

Heavy precipitation and cold temperatures in December and January have put the water supply for most of Idaho in a strong position for the coming summer irrigation season. While many river basins are well over 100 percent of normal, northern Idaho is lagging behind with only 69 percent of normal in the Panhandle, officials said at the Idaho Water Resource Board meeting this week.

Bose Mayor David Bieter said on January 27 that the City of Boise has been selected to participate in Bloomberg Philanthropies’ What Works Cities initiative – one of the largest-ever national philanthropic efforts to enhance the use of data and evidence in public sector decision-making.

A bipartisan coalition of western U.S. Senators has introduced two measures to benefit Americans exposed to airborne radiation during nuclear weapons tests in the 1950s and 1960s.

PHOTO Senator Jim Risch chaired the nomination hearing for President-elect Trump’s nominee to lead the Small Business Administration, Linda E. McMahon. In his opening remarks, Risch stated that one of the SBA’s most important duties is to “level the playing field for small businesses” who are being “strangled” by America’s current regulatory structure. (photo/Senator Risch)