Thousands of acres of farmland in south-central Idaho again have water during the drought


Water has returned to central Idaho. Catastrophic ruling to unplug 23,000 acres of irrigated farmland south of Bellevue in the Wood River Valley..

On Thursday morning, a complex reconciliation between surface water users along the Littlewood River and groundwater users known as the Bellevue Triangle in Brain County lifted the order to stop the water. Here, crops such as barley, wheat, alfalfa and potatoes are cultivated. grown.

Scott McIntosh is an opinion editor for the Idaho Legislature.

Scott McIntosh is an opinion editor for the Idaho Legislature.

Without reconciliation, the farmers would have suffered immense damage to the planted crops.

“The intangible was called’Idahoway’,” Idaho House speaker Scott Bedoke told me Thursday afternoon at his office. “That’s what happened with this deal this week.”

This is essentially what happened, without becoming too technical. Groundwater users, that is, farmers who pump water from wells, most of which have junior water rights, had to stop the water because it was not enough to drip onto surface water users. Who are the farmers pumping irrigation water from rivers and canals? A farmer with a senior water right. If groundwater users continue to pump, nothing will remain for surface water users. Therefore, the Idaho Department of Water Resources has ordered groundwater users to close the wells.

As evidence of the problem, Nature Conservancy completely closed access to fishing in the Silver Creek Reserve on July 2 due to low water levels and extreme heat. According to Idaho Mountain Express..

In Thursday’s arrangement, senior water rights holders agreed to allow junior rights holders to continue pumping water from wells until August 15. This is just enough time to mow alfalfa and save other grains.

In exchange, surface water users were able to connect enough water from other water sources to perfect everyone in a deal facilitated by Bedoke.

Bedke was able to secure 1,000 acre feet of water from the Lily Reservoir and 500 acre feet of water from the Henrys Lake Reservoir. This was paid by a junior water user. The Twin Falls Canal Company has donated an additional 1,000 acre-foot of water to this effort.

“It’s enough to just step in,” said Idaho, Speaker of the House of Representatives.

The Idaho Department of Water Resources, which ordered a water outage on July 1, approved the deal.

If you can imagine what the lawn looks like when you turn off the sprinklers for the past week, you can imagine the anxiety of farmers who had to turn off the water.

As most people know, Idaho relies heavily on agriculture, the only largest contributor to our economy. 20% of gross domestic product..

Droughts have dominated much of the west. Idaho escaped the worst, but Wood River Valley didn’t. In a state with about 3.3 million acres of irrigated land, 23,000 acres of farmland may seem trivial, but the situation in Central Idaho is a precursor to climate change.

This week’s deal is a temporary solution and will not be able to combat another year’s drought or widespread drought, but Bedoke is right that the agreement between water users is optimistic. ..

“People who didn’t like each other, those who were competing with each other, fought each other and they got together and said’timeout’,” Bedoke said. “‘I don’t want you to go out of business.’ … There were some conflicts and twists and turns, but enough people got together and started listening to their better qualities, benefiting everyone. We’ve reached an agreement to bring. That’s why we make this place so good. Something like this makes me optimistic. “

We will need that optimism as the tougher days come. And we all say, “Whiskey is for drinking. Water is for fighting.”

Scott McIntosh is an opinion editor for the Idaho Legislature. You can email him at [email protected] or call him at 208-377-6202. Follow him on Twitter @ ScottMcIntosh12.

Posted on