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Water credit plans ignite controversy


A private recharge business is drafting applications and mitigation plans to provide water through recharge credits to a dozen clients who haven't been able to obtain water rights on the Eastern Snake Plain Aquifer.


Recharge Alliance, Inc., grants credits, redeemable by groundwater users who buy them, to surface water rights holders who let recharge water seep into the Eastern Snake Plain Aquifer for underground storage.


The plans to use credits in essence as new water rights has been controversial. Roger Chase, vice chairman of the Idaho Water Resource Board, believes recharge water should be used to address current shortfalls rather than to expand irrigation acreage, which he fears could lead to more acrimony among users during prolonged dry periods.


"I'm real concerned about breaking out new agricultural land and using recharge water as the water," Chase said.


Dave Tuthill, who represents Upper Snake Mitigation Solutions, a partner in the private recharge project, doesn't believe any legislative action will be necessary to go forward with his plans to use credits to irrigate new land. He said cities, developers and corporate clients have also expressed interest in credits, which may also be used by groundwater pumpers to offer in case of water calls by senior rights holders.


--John O'Connell





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