Latah County commissioners discussed a proposal Wednesday that would shift the county’s vague and mostly invisible eastern boundary about one-quarter mile west. The move would set a clear boundary, while sending more than 2,000 acres of Latah County land to neighboring counties.
“The east boundary of Latah County has only one redeeming quality that I’m aware of,” Latah County Surveyor John Elsbury told the commissioners. “It is straight. And other than that, it has no use.”
The current eastern boundary is one of the oldest in Idaho, according to a packet Elsbury distributed to commissioners. It was first described in 1863 when President Abraham Lincoln’s administration established the Idaho Territory and had to carve it into a few counties.
Elsbury said the existing 27-mile boundary has no single monument to define it, so it is not clearly identified. The boundary runs due north from the mouth of the North Fork of the Clearwater River, but defining a precise point for the mouth of the river is challenging and subject to debate, the packet stated.
The proposed boundary would rest on the nearest existing monumented section lines, which are found on a surveyor’s map.
The packet stated shifting the boundary would allow landowners in the area to know exactly where the county line is, so they would be able to better manage their lands in accordance with ordinances of those respective counties.
It stated the legal county boundary would be marked on the ground, coincide with assessor tax rolls and be in accordance with Idaho code. Additionally, a future disaster or emergency may require a precise jurisdictional definition, and a monumented boundary as opposed to an imaginary line of longitude would make that process easier.
The northernmost six miles of the boundary borders Shoshone County and the remaining 21 miles borders Clearwater County, both of which would gain a combined 2,059 acres from Latah County.
“Moving the border is one idea, and I think we need to figure out what all the other ideas might be before we make a decision,” Commissioner Tom Lamar said.
Besides the option Elsbury proposed, he said other alternatives include defining the exact location of the mouth of the North Fork of the Clearwater River, which would still move the boundary line, or leaving the boundary as it is. Elsbury said leaving the boundary line unmoved is a huge inconvenience for surveyors. He said creating new monuments on the existing boundary is possible but very expensive.
The boundary is relatively remote and entirely forested, so very little private land would be affected by the proposed shift, the packet stated. Of the 2,059 acres, 205 are taxed acres.
PotlatchDeltic (51 percent), the U.S. Forest Service (27 percent) and the Idaho Department of Lands (17 percent) own most of the land abutting the eastern boundary on the Latah County side, the packet stated.
For the county boundary to be changed, the Latah, Clearwater and Shoshone county commissioners must make a resolution adopting the new boundary line and the Idaho Legislature must pass a bill to change the boundary to the agreed new line. The governor must then sign the bill to enact the boundary shift and the three county assessors must adjust their respective tax rolls.
Garrett Cabeza can be reached at (208) 883-4631, or by email to email@example.com.