BOISE, Idaho — Idaho Department of Water Resources Director Gary Spackman has conditionally approved a mitigation plan Magic Valley groundwater irrigators proposed to satisfy a delivery call filed by the Hagerman-based Rangen, Inc., trout farm.
The director’s recent ruling ensures no junior wells will be curtailed this irrigation season, but it shortens the deadline for Idaho Ground Water Appropriators members to implement a longterm solution from April to January.
Though IGWA officials consider Spackman’s ruling good news, Rangen filed a new delivery call on June 27, alleging it’s not receiving its full share of water from two lawn irrigation water rights and another fish propagation right due to impacts of junior groundwater pumping. Rangen attorney Fritz Haemmerle explained his client didn’t file a call on those three rights — a 0.09 cubic feet per second right from 1884, a 0.05 cubic feet per second right for 1908 and a 1.46 cubic feet per second right from 1957 — at the time of the larger call because the injury has only surfaced since then.
On the original call, Spackman ruled in January that groundwater users west of the Great Rift near American Falls owe Rangen 9.1 cubic feet per second of spring water, allowing them to phase in the full obligation over five years. He determined they owe 3.4 cubic feet per second this season, granting them 3 cubic feet per second of credit for conducting aquifer recharge, converting land from groundwater to surface water, drying some groundwater-irrigated land and piping other water to irrigators who share Rangen’s spring but have senior rights.
In his recent ruling on the IGWA’s mitigation proposal, Spackman, who had spread out IGWA’s credits for piping water over the course of a year, opted to calculate the credits over nine months, instead, to address the remaining 0.4 cubic feet per second of this season’s obligation. Spackman also approved IGWA’s proposal to provide mitigation water by building a pipeline from Tucker Springs — a water source for a nearby Idaho Department of Fish and Game hatchery — to Rangen. Spackman rejected Rangen’s concerns that the spring water could pose a disease risk to Rangen’s fish, noting IGWA could take certain protective measures.
IGWA attorney T.J. Budge said he plans to go forward with a hearing late this summer on another mitigation option — piping water from the state-owned Aqua Life hatchery to Rangen — to expand IGWA’s options. IGWA has also proposed to filter, aerate and recirculate water for Rangen’s use, to deepen the tunnel from which Rangen’s spring originates, or to relocate it lower in the aquifer for more consistent flows or to give Rangen flows from a right it’s seeking to secure from the same spring.
“It’s a short timeframe,” Budge acknowledged.
If IGWA can’t meet the deadline, Budge said, January curtailment would affect wells of member cities and livestock ranches.
Haemmerle argues none of IGWA’s proposals address the underlying problem of overallocation of the state’s water resources.
“On what planet does anyone say it’s a good management technique to simply move water from one source to another?” Haemmerle asked. “It’s further evidence that (Idaho’s) conjunctive management process is horribly flawed. The point of fact is nobody ever gets curtailed.”