U.S. Water News Online
TWIN FALLS, Idaho -- Magic Valley groundwater pumpers north
of the Snake River have filed a plan with state regulators intended
to satisfy concerns of spring water users in the Hagerman Valley.
If the Idaho Department of Water Resources does not accept a
mitigation plan, the groundwater users could see their water shut off
when a temporary agreement expires at the end of the year.
The groundwater users -- including at least 75 dairies in Jerome
and Gooding Counties -- irrigate tens of thousands of acres of
farmland, said Lynn Tominaga, executive director of Idaho Groundwater
Meanwhile, spring water users -- including Idaho's largest trout
companies, Clear Springs Foods Inc. and Clear Lakes Trout Co. --
contend that wells punched into the Eastern Snake River Plain Aquifer
have reduced spring flows.
Officials estimate that springs now empty the aquifer into the
Snake River between Kimberly and Hagerman at a rate of about 5,000
cubic feet of water per second, which is 1,650 cubic feet per second
less than the spring's peak flows in 1951. The decline equals the
loss of more than 1 million acre feet of water a year -- enough water
to cover one million acres of ground a foot deep.
Drought has exacerbated the reduced flows.
Groundwater users generally have water rights junior to spring
water users, and under Idaho law junior users are the first to shut
down if there is not enough water to go around.
A two-year agreement preventing litigation between groundwater and
surface water users expires Dec. 31, and Clear Lakes Trout Co. has
asked the water department to curtail water use by junior right
Tominaga said neither side wants a shutoff because it would
disrupt the region's economy and may not help the spring users.
``This is mainly to allow folks who have been farming for the last
20 years to continue on. It's a starting point for discussion instead
of having people use litigation to try to get their way,'' Tominaga
Clear Lakes Trout Co. officials could not be reached for comment.
Clear Springs Foods President Larry Cope said senior water rights
held by the hatcheries should not run short while those with junior
rights continue to draw water from the aquifer. But, he said, no one
should be put out of business by the mitigation.
Clear Springs Foods will likely file a proposal in response to the
groundwater users plan filed recently, company attorney John Simpson
The groundwater users' five-year plan sets a target of restoring
an average of 40,000 acre feet of water to the aquifer each year for
a total of 200,000 acre feet.
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