Water Users Ask Power Planning Council
by Associated Press
BOISE, (AP) -- Idaho's largest water user group wants the Northwest Power Planning Council to drop the continued use of upper Snake River water as flow augmentation for salmon recovery.
Idaho Water Users Association Executive Director Norm Semanko called the augmentation a "failed experiment" that has been scientifically discredited and should be dropped from the council's fish and wildlife program.
The regional council is revising the program and taking informal testimony. It last considered augmentation in 1994 when it mistakenly thought that water released from Idaho reservoirs would create river flow conditions that would flush the young salmon smolts to the ocean, Semanko said.
Idaho has annually provided 427,000 acre feet of water to the program. The council's amendments required and additional 1 million acre feet from Idaho.
Semanko said seven years of augmentation have proven it has no effect on salmon recovery.
"The council originally suggested Upper Snake flow augmentation as an 'experiment' to test the idea that there is a relationship between spring and summer flow, velocity and fish survival," he said.
Despite a lack of scientific evidence or legal basis for flow augmentation, and the potential economic consequences, Idaho water users even helped pass state legislation to authorize the experimental use of water for flow augmentation, he said.
"Now, years of research have shown there is no significant benefit from Upper Snake River flow augmentation," he said. "Indeed, flow augmentation using water from southern Idaho may be detrimental to the salmon. Clearly, there is no basis for the council's interim flow augmentation efforts to continue."
Semanko said the present use of the 427,000 acre feet should be halted since it provides no benefits to listed species, while imperiling water users and local resources in drought years like 2001.
He said taking 1 million acre-feet from Idaho would dry up thousands of acres of farmland, cause the loss of thousands of jobs and harm local fisheries and wildlife habitat.
The Idaho Water Users Association said its counterpart organizations in neighboring states support dropping the flow program.
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