Anderson Ranch Dam

Anderson Ranch Dam in Elmore County, Idaho.

The Idaho Water Resource Board at its Jan. 21 meeting decided to hire a consultant to help with financing the non-federal portion of expanding the Anderson Ranch Dam.

Expanding the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation dam on the South Fork Boise River would supply more water for irrigation, municipal and other uses.

IWRB will hire Municipal Capital Markets Group Inc. Compensation would come from proceeds from issuing bonds, or from the board if the project is discontinued or not funded, the board’s resolution said. The board would pay $150,000, not to exceed actual costs.

The financial adviser will coordinate with the board and other parties including a bond counsel, the underwriter and water-users, among others.

Starting a process to obtain funding “is necessary at this time,” the board’s resolution said.

The board said in a release that it would likely issue revenue-backed bonds to fund its share of the project. The board by year’s end needs to complete tasks including preparing a financing plan and coordinating with water users.

Staff plans to send a survey to Treasure Valley water users to gauge their interest in acquiring more water.

“We’ve still got planning documents to finalize and design work to do that will take some time this year,” Mark Limbaugh, the board’s longtime consultant, told Capital Press. “The board will be in the middle of that, working with Reclamation in Boise.”

Construction must start by mid-December for the project to get federal funds under the 2016 Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act.

It appears the construction-start requirement will be met if survey and investigation work are taking place and steps are underway to start the final design, said Cynthia Bridge Clark, Water Projects Section manager with the Idaho Department of Water Resources. The state is clarifying that with Reclamation.

“Part of what the board will need to do by the end of the year is enter an agreement with Reclamation and provide some up-front costs,” she said.

Clark said hiring a financial adviser is important because understanding the financing alternatives will be key to entering an agreement with Reclamation and developing contracts with users of the additional water.

Raising the 456-foot dam by 6 feet would increase its storage capacity by about 29,000 acre-feet to 442,100.

Reclamation estimates the cost at $83.3 million, which it would share equally with IWRB. The U.S. Interior secretary in December deemed the project feasible.

Congress recently approved $12.88 million — $2.88 million to complete the Boise River Basin Feasibility Study and Final Environmental Impact Statement this summer, and $10 million for construction under the WIIN Act for fiscal 2021.

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