Limited by Funds,
by Kimberlee Kruesi
State officials look to take advantage of this year's plentiful water, but sparse resources will hamper efforts.
TWIN FALLS -- Another round of water recharge has been approved in order to help replenish a key underground aquifer. But tight budgets will limit just how much the state can do as it seeks to replenish the heavily used Eastern Snake Plain Aquifer.
The Idaho Water Resource Board met last week and approved $132,700 to fund 44,245 acre-feet of recharge. An acre-foot is enough water to cover one acre, one foot deep.
This is the second recharge effort the board has led this year. This spring, more than 59,200 acre-feet of water was put back into the Lake Erie-sized aquifer.
All recharge this fall will occur below American Falls, said Rich Rigby, senior adviser for the Idaho Department of Water Resources.
The board seeks to divide recharge equally above and below American Falls. In years past, more attention has been given northeast of the dam because there were better opportunities there for recharge.
"Recharge tends to be opportunistic," Rigby said. "But we do the best we can to balance it out."
This spring helped create a plentiful water supply, but cash is tight. The Idaho Ground Water Appropriators contributed $80,000 to help fund more recharge sites. However, there is not enough money to recharge all of the water that is available.
"There is a limited amount of funding for recharge," said Lynn Tominaga, IGWA's executive director. "There are a lot of folks who would like to recharge but the money isn't there."
The Big Wood Canal Co., North Side Canal Co. and Southwest Irrigation District have agreed to participate in this fall's recharge efforts, Rigby said.
North Side Canal added two new recharge sites to help make a greater impact, said Ted Diehl, the company's manager. However, as of Wednesday, Diehl did not know how much water the company would commit to this fall.
"We'll probably do quite a bit," Diehl said. "It's important so the farmers have both ground and surface water. We're trying to help them out." Southwest Irrigation District has committed to 5,000 acre-feet this fall, said board member Randy Brown.
"It's not a lot this fall but we're splitting it up between Cassia and Twin Falls counties," Brown said.
Recharge efforts will continue throughout December, Rigby said.
"It was a good water year," he said. "Now is the ideal time to do it."
Recharge Plans Gain Momentum by Julie Pence, Times-News, November 20, 2004
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