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Bureau will study feasibility of raising three Boise River dams

The Idaho Water Resource voted 7-0 Oct. 24 to commit $3 million in funding toward a study of the feasibility of raising the three Boise River dams by several feet.
Sean Ellis

Capital Press

Published on October 27, 2017 10:35AM

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation will conduct a $6 million study to determine if it’s feasible to raise Arrowrock Dam — shown here in this aerial view — and two other dams on the Boise River system by several feet each. That would create an additional 60,000 acre-feet of water storage capacity on the system.

Courtesy U.S. Bureau of Reclamation

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation will conduct a $6 million study to determine if it’s feasible to raise Arrowrock Dam — shown here in this aerial view — and two other dams on the Boise River system by several feet each. That would create an additional 60,000 acre-feet of water storage capacity on the system.

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation will conduct a $6 million study to determine if it’s feasible to raise Arrowrock Dam — shown here in this aerial view — and two other dams on the Boise River system by several feet each. That would create an additional 60,000 acre-feet of water storage capacity on the system.

Courtesy U.S. Bureau of Reclamation

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation will conduct a $6 million study to determine if it’s feasible to raise Arrowrock Dam — shown here in this aerial view — and two other dams on the Boise River system by several feet each. That would create an additional 60,000 acre-feet of water storage capacity on the system.


BOISE — A proposed major study to determine the feasibility of storing more water on the Boise River system by raising three dams by several feet each is moving forward.

The Idaho Water Resource Board on Oct. 24 committed up to $3 million toward the $6 million U.S. Bureau of Reclamation study, which required a 50 percent non-federal match to proceed.

The bureau will look at the possibility of raising Anderson Ranch Dam by 6 feet, Arrowrock Dam by 10 feet and Lucky Peak Dam by 4 feet.

Combined, that would create an additional 60,000 acre-feet of storage capacity on the Boise River system, which can currently store just under 1 million acre-feet of water.

Southwestern Idaho irrigators have talked about the need for additional water storage capacity for quite awhile, said Roger Batt, executive director of the Treasure Valley Water Users Association, whose members represents 320,000 acres of irrigated land in the region.

“Sixty thousand acre-feet (would be) a good start,” Batt said. “We applaud the water board’s efforts in getting in front of this issue. Hopefully, we can find a few more projects as well.”

Roland Springer, who manages the bureau’s Snake River area office, told Capital Press that staff from his agency and the Idaho Department of Water Resources have done a lot of preliminary work on the idea.

“There are irrigators who are very interested in having something like this happen,” he said. “It’s a great position to be in now and I think we’re all ready to roll up our sleeves and start working.”

Though the IWRB voted 7-0 to authorize up to $3 million toward the project, they also expressed concerns about committing that much money toward a study when there is no guarantee the dams will actually be raised.

The board also provided matching funds for a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers study that determined raising Arrowrock by up to 70 feet was the best option for solving water supply and flood risk issues on the Boise system. Doing that would have added an additional 100,000 acre-feet of storage capacity.

But the corps said the benefits of that project didn’t match the $1.2 billion cost — a requirement to move forward with construction — and the IWRB terminated that $3.5 million study in January.

“We’re really committed to doing these projects but we’re also wondering, are we ever going to have success,” board chairman Roger Chase told Springer.

Chase told Capital Press later the board is “frustrated because we’re spending hard-earned taxpayer dollars. The board is really concerned about these studies that just seem to go on.”

But he said board members also realize the fast-growing Treasure Valley area will need additional water supplies in the future and the only place to get them from is the Boise River system.

“Water in the West is a priceless commodity,” he said. “We’re so close. We felt we have to continue to press forward and look at every angle we can to find additional water for the Treasure Valley.”



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