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Economic and dam related articles

State Mulls Water Buys

by Dave Wilkins, Staff Writer
Capital Press, February 23, 2007

Water board to hold Hagerman meeting

Idaho could buy more water rights in an effort to reduce demand on the shrinking Eastern Snake Plain Aquifer.

The Idaho Water Resources Board will discuss the issue during a public meeting Feb. 27 at 7 p.m. at the Hagerman Valley Senior Center, 140 E. Lake St. in Hagerman.

The board will present information about declining flows in the Thousand Springs area and the possibility of some water rights holders selling or subordinating their rights to the state.

When the state bought the water rights to the Bell Rapids Irrigation Project in 2005, it marked an unprecedented move.

But many observers knew it wouldn't be the last such effort.

Last week, the water board released the final version of its framework for managing the ESPA. It included a recommendation that state lawmakers appropriate $10 million this year for targeted demand reduction programs that could include the purchase of water rights.

Senior water rights holders in the Thousand Springs area, including several commercial trout farms, have seen significant decreases in flow from their decreed rights.

Acquiring some of those water rights may reduce the number of water calls or provide economic relief to water rights holders who have seen shortages, the board said.

"However, purchasing water rights should be viewed as a short-term, stop-gap measure, and not a substitute for management actions which may improve the long term balance between supply and demand in the ESPA," the board said in its report.

Purchasing water rights is just part of an overall effort to resolve conflicts over use of the aquifer, which underlies 10,000 square miles of the Eastern Snake River Plain.

The water board's other recommendations include aquifer recharge, increasing enrollment in the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program and converting more groundwater-irrigated acres to surface-water irrigation.

To see the final framework plan, visit the Idaho Department of Water Resources website at

Dave Wilkins is based in Twin Falls, Idaho.
State Mulls Water Buys
Capital Press, February 23, 2007

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