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Groundwater Plan Faces Voluminous Opposition

by Jennifer Sandmann, Times-News writer
Times-News, November 26, 2003

TWIN FALLS -- Sixty entities including trout producers, cities and industries either object to or want to have a say in a plan aimed a replenishing canyon springs.

Without an accepted mitigation plan, about 550 wells irrigating 20,000 to 25,000 acres on the north side of the Snake River could be in jeopardy of curtailment if there isn't enough water to go around next year. About 100 of the wells supply water to dairies.

The Idaho Department of Water Resources posted the lengthy list of protests and accompanying paperwork Tuesday on its Web site.

Magic Valley groundwater users on the north side of the Snake River submitted their mitigation plan to the Water Resources Department in October. Monday evening was the deadline to file a protest.

The five-year mitigation proposal is an outgrowth of two years of negotiations and efforts to recover canyon springs without shutting down wells. Accomplishments include replacement water for some irrigators who operated without full water rights for years.

But success in replenishment of canyon springs -- needed by the nation's No. 1 fish-producing region for temperature and water quality -- has been elusive. Fish producers dealing with significant water shortages have grown frustrated and have taken the issue to court.

The decline in springs up and down the Snake River Plain correlates with 20th century changes in irrigation practices including conversion to sprinkler irrigation and development of wells. Drought has exacerbated declines.

"One of the problems we had over the past two years is not getting everybody's attention," Lynn Tominaga, executive director of the Idaho Groundwater Appropriators Inc., said Tuesday evening.

It looks like that has changed, which could be a positive aspect of the high volume of protests, he added. More people are coming to the table to participate.

Protests filed by some entities may not include specific objections, but water users are required to intervene if they want their issues to be considered by the Water Resources Department, Tominaga said.

The department will make the ultimate decision on whether to accept the mitigation plan.

Before the department convenes a contested case hearing, it will hold a prehearing conference, department spokesman Dick Larsen said. The conference is planned for 10 a.m. Dec. 9 at the KMVT Community Room in Twin Falls.

Jennifer Sandmann, Times-News writer
Groundwater Plan Faces Voluminous Opposition
Times-News, November 26, 2003

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