U.S. Water News Online
TWIN FALLS, Idaho -- The head of Idaho's water department
says he will turn off groundwater pumps used by more than 700 Magic
Valley farmers later this month if they fail to set aside additional
water sought by two senior users.
Idaho Water Resources Department Director David Tuthill said he
intends to issue a curtailment order on May 14 targeting 771
groundwater users spread across 33,000 acres of the Magic Valley
north of the Snake River.
Tuthill said the decision is part of the agency's ongoing response
to demands for additional water sought in 2005 by Blue Lakes Trout
Farm and Clear Springs Food's Snake River Farm. Both producers
contend they have the senior, legal right to divert more water than
they are currently receiving.
"While we are forced to provide this notice, there is still an
opportunity to identify additional" solutions and alternatives,
Tuthill said. "Curtailment is really a last resort. I really hope we
don't hurt growers."
Calls by senior right holders for more water are common,
particularly during the recent string of dry years in Idaho. But
Tuthill said the May 14 curtailment orders marks the first time a
shutdown has targeted so many users.
The order could also limit water supplies to towns in the Magic
Valley, including Blaine, Butte, Gooding, Jerome, Lincoln and
Minidoka counties, according to the department.
In the past, groundwater users have sidestepped curtailment orders
by voluntarily giving up water to senior right holders. But this
year, some say the resource is too precious to pass on.
"We just don't believe there's enough water in the system," said
Lynn Tominaga, executive director of the Idaho Ground Water
Appropriators. "We might end up going to court or asking the director
for a special hearing."
Another option is a state and federal conservation program for
farmers. The Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program would reimburse
farmers who opt not to farm acreage for conservation reasons and
farmers who enroll in the program are exempt from curtailment orders.
The call for additional water affects users with priority rights
beginning after May 10, 1983, the date established by Blue Lakes, and
June 9, 1975, the rights date established by Clear Springs.
Return to the
U.S. Water News Archives page
Return to the U.S. Water
Use a comma to separate e-mail addresses:
Hi, I thought you might like to read this article.