Two More Idaho Fish Farms Demand
by Associated Press
HAGERMAN, Idaho -- Two more south-central Idaho trout farms claim deep well pumping for irrigation and other purposes has slashed the Snake River water to which they are entitled.
Rangen Inc. in Buhl and Aquaious Aquaculture in Hagerman filed petitions with the Department of Water Resources demanding that pumping be curtailed so they can receive their full water entitlement.
Water Resources Director Karl Dreher advised both that the department would begin analyzing the petitions under the 1995 regulations for jointly managing ground and surface water, department spokesman Dick Larsen said.
Those regulations, however, are being challenged in court by a third trout farm. Clear Lakes Trout Co. in Hagerman maintains the rules unconstitutionally infringe on its water right.
Under the regulations, the department must determine before it can act which water users with more recent rights are responsible for curtailment of water to users with older rights.
The trout farms have targeted dairies, irrigators and industries with water rights newer than their rights, which date back to the mid-1960s. The crisis was created by three straight years of drought.
Their petitions were filed after water users in the region spent the past two years trying to find an alternative to curtailing well pumping.
The trout farms are among a number of commercial fish hatcheries in Southern Idaho that are responsible for 75 percent of the nation's commercial trout production. They sold 38 million pounds of trout worth $30 million last year.
But all say their water supplies from the Snake river -- needed to effectively operate the hatcheries -- have been cut to less than half the amount their water right guarantees and on which they rely.
The trout farms have expressed no confidence in the five-year plan groundwater pumpers came up with to try to accommodate them. To avoid being curtailed by the Water Resources Department, the pumpers -- about 100 dairies, industries and farms irrigating up to 25,000 acres -- agreed to funnel 40,000 acre feet of replacement water into the river last year and this.
That is enough to cover 20,000 acres in water 2 feet deep and was intended to create time for a long-term solution to be developed.
But the deal expires in December, and there is no indication that it will be renewed.
In the meantime, the department has been upgrading its computer model to better determine the effects groundwater pumping has on the canyon springs. That model is scheduled to be finished in the next several months.
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