Friday, April 28, 2017

Flood control v. water rights

Water Users: Flood control releases counted as irrigation water 

Boise—The Army Corps of Engineers and the Bureau of Reclamation has released close to a million acre feet of water from the Boise reservoir system for flood control so far this year. 

While that helps solve flood control problems in the Treasure Valley, some water users say its creating another.

Water users are saying that all that water released at Lucky Peak is being counted as used irrigation water by the State even though the irrigation season hasn't started.

“The State says that water sent down river for flood control counts against the total amount of irrigation water we’re allowed during the summer months,” said Roger Batt, Executive Director of the Treasure Valley Water Users Association. 

Batt says the lost water counts against farmers as if they had used it on crops, pastures, gardens for irrigation,“Its beyond any rational explanation,” he said.

The Treasure Valley Water Users worry that when the snow melts and we face a long scorching hot summer farmers could be shorted their fair share of water late in the summer because of the State’s water accounting system. 

“It defies common sense, flood control is not considered a beneficial use under Idaho water law to satisfy a water right.  None of our members that have used the operating plan for six decades would have done it knowing that flood control releases would be counted against their storage water rights,” Batt added.

The Treasure Valley Water Users Association stresses that they’re not against the Army Corps of Engineers flood control efforts, they’re against the state’s accounting of the water.

“So this year while we released 950,000 acre feet of water, its important to know that we can store a million but by August we might be out of irrigation water,” said Batt.

The association says farmers start using reservoir water by June, and that theres no way released water could have been put to use because its been such a wet year. Farmers, subdivisions even golf courses that depend on irrigation water could be cut off under state rules if we run out of water toward the end of summer.

“If irrigation had to be turned off this summer our yards and gardens everything would dry up, our crops and pastures would dry up, we wouldn't be able to produce food,” says Batt.

How the State releases irrigation and how its counted is now an issue before the Idaho Supreme Court. The Department of Water Resources says the water users are making a broad assumption.

“Their concern is that somehow they’ll be prevented from capturing that water in the reservoir thats not clear to me. I don’t know what would prevent that from happening,” said Mat Weaver of the Idaho Department of Water Resources.

“Our water users want to know why the state is challenging the validity of our long-standing water rights?’ They want to know why water thats released for flood control can be counted against them as irrigation water thats already used,” Batt said.

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