SANDPOINT — Bonner County appears to be at the losing end again of an effort to redraw legislative boundaries without cutting across county lines.
Under the latest plan adopted by the state’s Commission for Reapportionment, parts of the county south of Lake Pend Oreille will be lumped into a new legislative district that includes Shoshone, Clearwater and Idaho counties.
U.S. Highway 95 will serve as the seam separating District 1 and the newly-configured District 7. Residents on the east side of the highway will be in District 7, while those on the west side of the highway will be in District 1.
District 7’s eastern and northern boundaries will be the center of the lake and the center of the Clark Fork River.
The commission admitted in its revised findings and conclusions that District 7 will be large and less than ideal.
However, it will meet the one person/one vote requirement.
“This district is evidence of the great difficulty in creating legislative districts in a state the size and shape of Idaho with its diverse landscape and comparatively sparse population density,” the commission said in its findings.
Although the new boundaries lines will re-unify Priest River, they will keep the community of Clark Fork divided.
“Clark Fork remains split in half which is really distressing, I know, for a lot of folks out that way,” said District 1 Sen. Shawn Keough.
Keough and residents on the south side of the Clark Fork River lobbied strongly to be kept in the same legislative district as their neighbors on the north side of the river.
Barring any further legal challenges, the new boundaries will be in place for the next decade.
An initial redistricting board was unable to approve a plan within the allotted three-month time span. A second commission formed and developed a plan last October, but it was challenged by Twin Falls County and others because it diced up too many counties.
The Idaho Supreme Court ruled on a 4-1 vote earlier this month that the map was unconstitutional because 12 of the state’s 44 counties were divided.
The latest legislative boundary map was adopted last Friday.
Joyce Broadsword, an incumbent District 2 senator, would be part of the new District 7, but hasn’t decided if she’ll seek re-election.
“I’m weighing my options,” she said. “I have to determine what’s best for my constituents, my family, (and) my business.”
Broadsword already represents a district with far-flung boundaries composed of counties with diverse communities of interest. District 2 includes part of Bonner, Kootenai, Shoshone and Benewah counties.
District 7 would roughly extend from Sagle south to Riggins, a distance of more than 200 miles.
Neither Keough nor Broadsword are aware of any pending legal challenges to the latest map and have doubts that any would emerge given the high court’s ruling.
“I don’t know what grounds they would sue on because the Supreme Court says they had to do it with the fewest county splits possible,” said Broadsword.
The latest map has drawn sharp criticism from Bonner County residents.
“It really shows a lack of understanding and a lack of care and concern for Bonner County and our issues,” said Marcia Phillips, a Careywood resident who would be a constituent in District 7.
Of particular concern among some is potential conflicting community attitudes about mining.
For counties in the southern portion of District 7, mining remains an important economic engine. Though Bonner County has a rich history in mining, the industry has largely faded away and a significant amount of importance has been placed on protecting Lake Pend Oreille’s water quality.
“How can anybody in Idaho County know anything about Lake Pend Oreille?” Phillips said.
There is also concern that legislative representation would also plunge south.
“We basically lose another northern Idaho representative,” said Bonner County resident Tony Hayes.