Legal Insight. Business Instinct.

Encroachments on Easements

Eastern Idaho’s climate is arid, with cold winters and hot dry summers. Most snowfall occurs in the surrounding mountains, and then melts in the spring and summer. Pioneers in Eastern Idaho harnessed those waters with canals and ditches that even today carry water to farms and ranches across the Snake River plain.

Without irrigation water, farming and ranching in Eastern Idaho would not be possible.

To protect the rights of irrigators the law recognizes that canal companies, farmers, and ranchers have easements or rights-of-way for transporting water. Canals and ditches require access for operation and maintenance. Without regular maintenance canal banks can fail and neighboring homes and subdivisions may be flooded.

Idaho law prohibits encroachments on easements or rights-of-way that interfere with the operation and maintenance of ditches and canals. Common examples of encroachments that can cause interference include:

• Trees and shrubs

• Fences and gates

• Barns or sheds

• Roads

• Utilities

Under Idaho law encroachments that are placed in such easement or right-of-way, without express written permission of the owner of the easement or right-of-way, will be removed at the expense of the person causing or permitting the encroachment if the encroachment interferes with the use of the easement.

Perhaps the most common problem is with trees that must be trimmed or removed before they damage or destroy ditch banks and canals. Adjoining land owners have frequently complained when they discovered that trees and shrubs adjoining their property have been cut down by the canal company. Be advised that encroachments on easements are not allowed under the law, and irrigators are entitled to remove them.

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