The Surface Water Coalition
For Immediate Release – Twin Falls, Idaho – Aug 22, 2013
The Surface Water Coalition filed a pair of official administrative petitions with the Idaho Department of Water Resources which, if approved, would halt any new ground water development in the Non-Trust water area of the Snake River without mitigation and re-establish protective management controls on ground water development in the American Falls area.
The petitions were filed with IDWR on August 15, 2013 and are a broad move designed to address important elements in the chronic problem of declining ground water levels and reach gains that have seriously reduced Snake River water supplies upon which the Coalition depends to meet the irrigation water needs of its members, according to Travis Thompson, a SWC spokesman.
The first petition seeks the reinstatement of an expired moratorium on new ground water development in the Non-Trust Water area which consists of lands adjacent to and paralleling the Snake River from below American Falls northeast to Idaho Falls.
In 1993 IDWR put in place a moratorium on new ground water development because of lowered water levels in the aquifer of the non-trust water area. IDWR took the action after concluding that ground water pumping was reducing spring discharges needed to maintain stream and river flows to which surface water users were entitled by their senior water rights. IDWR then allowed the moratorium to expire in 1997. A 1993 IDWR ground water development moratorium in the Trust Water Area, the 15,000-square-mile Eastern Snake Plain Aquifer and tributary basins west to Swan Falls Dam, remains in effect.
The Coalition maintains it defies logic that a moratorium is in place on part of the ESPA but is not required on the complete aquifer, especially since scientists have determined there is no hydrologic difference between the two areas when it comes to the impacts on the Snake River in the area – Blackfoot to Minidoka – that the SWC relies upon for its water supply.
“A water right cannot be granted in the trust water area without special mitigation to protect ground water levels. But right across the fence in the non-trust area you can file a new application to use groundwater even through you would be pumping out of the same aquifer and depleting the same resource that feeds the river. We believe that is both arbitrary and completely contrary to both good water management practices and simple common sense,” Thompson said.
The second petition, filed originally by North Side and Twin Falls Canal Companies, seeks an order to resume action on a contested 2003 decision by IDWR to dissolve a large portion of a Ground Water Management Area involving lands along the American Falls reach of the Snake River.
The Ground Water Management Area was put in place in 2001 because IDWR concluded that that ground water pumping within a 10 kilometer (6.2 miles) band on both sides of the river depleted flows in that reach of the Snake River an amount equal to 50 percent or more of the ground water being pumped within six months of the time it is pumped. In 2003, the State dissolved the GWMA on the north and west side of the river because Water Districts 120 and 130 had been formed.
“Water Districts are not established to protect a ground water resource or implement a management plan, but just to administer the delivery of water. The Coalition members rightfully challenged the decision in an effort to protect the resource. IDWR has chosen to let the challenge languish in administrative limbo for 10 years. The need for the American Falls GWMA – as it was originally created – is even more evident today because the health of the aquifer has continued its downward trend. Conditions are getting worse and Snake River flows continue to decline,” Thompson said
This action is just one element of the Coalition’s on-going efforts to address decades of declines in Snake River flows that have resulted from the depletion of ground water due to ground water development on the aquifer that feeds the extensive network of springs supplying water to the river.
The Coalition consists of seven major irrigation organizations that provide water to more than 630,000 acres of farmland across southern Idaho. They are the A & B Irrigation District, American Falls Reservoir District #2, Burley Irrigation District, Minidoka Irrigation District, Milner Irrigation District, North Side Canal Company and Twin Falls Canal Company.
Also check out the IDWR's website for the documents filed on the water call.
Their site is: www.idwr.idaho.gov/
The administrative hearing that began January 16, 2008 has concluded. Former Justice Gerald Schroeder's recommendations are posted on the IDWR website along with the order issued by IDWR. You can go to the IDWR's website listed above to listen to all the testimonies, recommendations and orders.
Also on the IDWR website is information regarding hydropower water right at Milner Dam.
Important Water Call Contacts
Your input to your state representatives and agencies is vital in protecting your water right. We are doing what we can but now is the time for you individual voices to be heard. Below are some links that will give you contact information to Idaho's House and Senate Representatives and the Idaho Department of Water Resources. Please be active in voicing your concerns.
House Members http://www.legislature.idaho.gov/house/membership.cfm
Senate Members http://www.legislature.idaho.gov/senate/membership.cfm