Random Document #1: ‘Life is like a Swizzle Stick’

By Deena Merrill

Random Documents is a series of blogs from IRU that will feature random documents and tidbits of wisdom from the IRU archives.

As one of the new interns for Idaho Rivers United, part of my job is to go through all of the documents stored away over the years from cases, research and projects on Idaho’s rivers, fish and dams. The storage room—about 10 feet square with wall-to-wall bins, boxes and posters—likely contains a million-plus pages of paper explaining IRU's past. It’s an interesting place to poke around. 

This week, I traced a paper trail to Oregon and found a communication from Oregon attorney William Hutchison Jr. to former IRU director Wendy Wilson. It was sent in September 1993. 

Dear Wendy:

It was good to meet you at Arch’s memorial service. Fran’s great niece turns out to be haunted by water. All of you are members of a river runs through it family.

You probably already have it, but I thought I would send along a copy of the Diack Decision and it is enclosed. Here’s a copy of the ode as well just in case. 

I hope our paths will cross again.

Best Regards, William Hutchison, Jr.

The letter came with two documents, a permit application for a Portland Hydroelectric Power Diversion from Bull Run River and an Ode to Old Man River. The first permit application discusses the decisions of the Court of Appeals and Water Resources Commission from 1988 stating why the city was not allowed a permit to divert water to produce power. It discusses how, after public outcry and in-depth analysis of the diversion and its outcomes, the attorney, Diack, recognized that the proposed diversion was a poor option. After much discussion, Supreme Court Justice Gillette J. reversed the proposal in order to keep the water in the river.

The second document is titled “In Celebration of the Life of Arch W. Diack.” Diack was the attorney who fought so hard for the rivers in the first document. 

Written by Hutchison, a current attorney in Portland, the eulogy was praise for the great man Diack was and talked about his love for his wife, Fran, his desire to be outdoors and his thirst for life. Diack had many etchings of nature donated to raise money for the Nature Conservancy. He created an Ecological Education Fund to keep the next generation educated through the Oregon Parks Foundation because he believed education is the best tool for anyone interested in ecological sensitivity and environmental future. The biggest case he had was the Diack Decision, which made the state of Oregon see the entire river as one, not as segmented pieces, and created the first recognized scenic waterway in Oregon.

While it may have been nothing but a chance encounter, this document helps to reinforce the importance of IRU’s mission and dedication to river preservation and illustrates values that IRU supports. We must always remember a river’s importance to all in every aspect of its flow. The harm to one area can harm the whole river; the love to one area can bring love to the whole river. 

When out in the rivers here in Idaho, we hope you can take a moment to remember Diack and the words of wisdom he inspired from Hutchison during the eulogy he delivered, “Life is like a Swizzle Stick—you’re born, you live, you die, but it’s a drag if you don’t stir things up a bit."