Ernie grew up on a family farm in Rigby, Idaho, where much of his summers were spent with shovel in hand flood irrigating.
In 1972 he graduated from Boise State College with a Bachelor of Science in Biology and enlisted in the U.S. Army. Following his discharged from the Army, he returned to Idaho and in June, 1976, started working in the Eastern Region Office for the Department of Water Resource. From 1987 to 2007, Ernie was the Water Right Supervisor for the Snake River Basin Adjudication (SRBA) in Eastern Region. In 2007 he became the Water Resource Program Manager, overseeing both the SRBA and the water right program in Eastern Region. In January, 2010, he retired from state employment and shortly after started working for IWE.