U.S. Water News Online
BOISE, Idaho -- Lawmakers on an interim legislative
committee, established to reduce water demands on the Eastern Snake
River Plain Aquifer, offered to buy water rights from the Snake River
and its connected streams.
The Idaho Department of Water Resources said there was a frenzy of
people wanting to sell their rights. Holders of water rights had
until 5 p.m. Jan. 7 to make an offer to the state through the
By the end of the business day, the department had counted about
25 offers. It had about 50,000 acres of water, but the acre-feet had
not yet been calculated.
The offer was made Dec. 7. Department spokesman Mike Keckler said
that prior to Jan. 3, little interest had been shown.
House Speaker Bruce Newcomb, R-Burley, said lawmakers anticipate
paying up to $100 million for the rights to 60,000 acre feet of
surface water. The deal is to help meet federal Endangered Species
The water supply has been strained by consecutive years of
drought, decades of pumping and changing irrigation practices, so the
region's parched aquifer leaves some water right holders unable to
get their entire allotment.
The offer-to-sell strategy is only one part of the interim
committee's strategy to reduce water coming from the aquifer. Water
Resources Director Karl Dreher put together a plan to raise enough
money to pay for the rights. It does not involve government
commitment, but will allow the apartment to estimate how many water
rights are for sale and how much people want for those rights.
Water purchased by the state would be used to convert spring water
below the Snake River Canyon rim to surface water to be delivered to
the Northside Canal Co. system, former Kimberly Sen. Laird Noh said.
The water could also be used to recharge the aquifer.
Lawmakers had hoped to have agreements between the groups of
spring users, groundwater pumpers and surface users before December
in order to be ready for the Legislature in January. But though
surface users and pumpers are still a ways from an agreement, House
Speaker Bruce Newcomb said earlier that he's not alarmed at the early
lack of interest to sell.
"I've yet to see any water deal that wasn't solved in the 11th
hour," Newcomb said.
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