U.S. Water News Online
BOISE, Idaho — Officials who manage Idaho's water resources say the slumping economy could make it difficult to find money for a proposal to manage a vast groundwater aquifer in southern Idaho.
Idaho Department of Water Resources officials and members of the state Water Resource Board met recently with the state Senate Resources and Environment Committee to discuss the Comprehensive Aquifer Management Plan.
The plan to manage the Lake Erie-sized Eastern Snake Plain Aquifer will cost up to $100 million in its first 10 years. It calls for the state to contribute $3 million a year with the rest coming from water users, including cities, Idaho Power, and irrigators.
The eight-member Water Resource Board will vote on the plan. If approved, it will go to the Legislature.
With the faltering economy and tight state budget, the plan could be in trouble.
“How do we keep the CAMP process moving forward without any money?” asked Sen. Dean Cameron, R-Rupert, The Times-News reported.
Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter already has cut 4 percent, or about $130 million, from the state's fiscal year 2009 budget. In December, Otter asked agency heads not to spend another 2 percent.
Dave Tuthill, Water Resources director, said he doubts Otter will recommend any money for CAMP.
Drought and more than a half-century of groundwater pumping have depleted the aquifer, causing surface water users to accuse groundwater users of illegally taking water rights, resulting in lawsuits.
The plan aims to recharge the aquifer through various projects and changing how water from the aquifer is used.
“(The plan) is vital to the eastern part of the state,” said Hal Anderson, Department of Water Resources administrator. “This has been a long and contentious issue on the Eastern Snake Plain Aquifer. This (plan) provides a method to get people working together with real solutions. This is very much a winner for the state.
“It's pretty amazing that we're even here now,” he said. “A lot of people sitting down and working on this have been suing each other for the last 10 or 15 years.
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