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Economic and dam related articles

Recharging Magic Valley Aquifer

by Dan Hamilton
Fox 12 News, March 23(?), 2006

Well, it's officially a good year for water in Idaho, and now some lawmakers are hoping to use the excess to refill aquifers, or ground water in areas of the Magic Valley.

To make the job a little easier, the Idaho Department of Water Resources has given lawmakers the green light, but that doesn't mean it will be an easy decision for them to make, as controversy may already be brewing.

Aquifer levels are down, a big reason the department granted this recent resolution, should the Idaho Legislature decide to use it.

"This resolution allows them the flexibility to put this permit into the water bank, and then divert it wherever they see fit," said Mike Keckler of the Department of Water Resources.

He says this discussion has been going on for several years, but this seems to be the first time diverting water from dams along the Snake River has been a possibility.

"The snow pack is above average, which is something we haven't seen in six years. So if we're going to do recharge, perhaps this is the year to at least explore it a little further," said Keckler.

"Well, what we're trying to do is stabilize the aquifer so that at least it stays at the level that its at," said House Speaker Bruce Newcomb.

Representative Newcomb says the aquifer in the Burley area needs recharging. He says a lot of people depend on it for everything from drinking to fish farming. But in order to recharge the aquifer he know's he'll face a battle from Idaho Power. Newcomb says there's a dispute over the Snake Falls Agreement, which gives Idaho Power rights to the Snake River in order to create power.

But, according to Newcomb, the state does have rights to the spill-over, which he wants to use.

"What we're looking at is basically setting up so in the future that we can settle this dispute with this statute, then move on from there, and do recharge in the future," he said.

If lawmakers decide to approve the measure, water would be diverted to canals in the Burley area, which could then be used to flood the land where the aquifer exists. The state could then reapprove the decision, on years when the extra water is available.

"Yeah, we would be able to recharge without having to compensate anybody or anybody believing we need to compensate anybody," Newcomb said.

Refusing to go on camera, a representative from Idaho Power did say that diverting water wouldn't necessarily harm Idaho Power, but could hurt its customers. He says if there's not enough water to create the needed power during the summer months, then the company would need to turn to coal fired plants in Wyoming, which is a more expensive method.

An added expense that would simply create higher power bills.

Dan Hamilton
Recharging Magic Valley Aquifer
Fox 12 News, March 23(?), 2006

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