U.S. Water News Online
BOISE, Idaho -- A proposal by the U.S. Bureau of
Reclamation to transfer
control of federal land along irrigation canals and around water supply
reservoirs has recreationists worried that they will be effectively locked
out of hundreds of thousands of acres throughout the western states. The
issue involves a plan by the Bureau to hand over control of its canals,
reservoirs, and dams to irrigation districts and other local governments.
Irrigation districts generally are opposed to public usage of
facilities, said Tim Breuer, a river trails coordinator in Idaho. "Their
business is moving water," noted Breuer. "If they are the only decision maker
it will be more difficult to get paths." In Idaho, the Bureau's proposal
would affect access to some 170,000 acres of federal land that presently is
open to recreation.
On the other hand, irrigation and Reclamation officials, along
members of Congress, are saying that the proposed effort to streamline
government should have little impact on recreational access of public land.
"I think (critics) are selling the irrigators short," said Rep. Helen
Chenoweth of Idaho. "They are far more sensitive to the community's needs
than the federal government," added Chenoweth. "We're asking for more
Chenoweth and other members of Congress are wrestling over the
how to disburse Reclamation property spread over 17 western states. In a
major shift in federal irrigation policy, the Bureau wants to relinquish
control of the projects to state and local levels.
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