recharge progress

A concrete channel on the Milner-Gooding Canal near Shoshone, Idaho. Efforts to return the Snake River Plain Aquifer to sustainable levels are on target, but more recharge capacity is needed to reach the long-term goal.

Capital Press

The Idaho Water Resource Board authorized spending $3.7 million on infrastructure improvements for its groundwater-recharge project in the East Snake Plain Aquifer.

IWRB, meeting in Moscow July 27, also approved flood-management grants under a new state program.

The East Snake Plain Aquifer, underlying much of south central and southeast Idaho, has been the subject of water-rights conflicts over the years. Recent efforts have included an Idaho Legislature-supported comprehensive management plan involving various stakeholders, and an aquifer-recharge program managed by IWRB.

The board aims to pump an average of 250,000 acre-feet of water back into the East Snake Plain Aquifer each year. This past winter, board staff sent a record 536,817 acre-feet back into ESPA in the Upper Snake River Valley and Magic Valley regions compared to about 317,000 a year earlier. Heavy snowfall over the 2016-17 winter left excess water that was sent down the Snake River and thus available for recharge this year, said Wesley Hipke, recharge project manager for the board.

The new funding will go toward five infrastructure-enhancement projects for delivering recharge water on various canal systems, including a bypass of the Milepost 28 hydro plant on Milner-Gooding Canal, and developing recharge sites on North Side Canal below Wilson Lake, Farmers Friend Canal, Randall Canal and the Butte Market Lake irrigation system.

“It’s important to develop all of these sites to give the board more capacity and flexibility in our recharge operations,” Hipke said. The improvements should make the program more efficient, and allow the program to capture more available water - an advantage especially in high-water years, he said.

The 2018 Idaho Legislature set aside $1 million for a flood-management grant program. IWRB administers it and shares half the cost of projects with recipients.

The recently announced grants, some aiding irrigation systems, leave $233,000 still available for the current year. A second application period runs through Aug. 17; IWRB plans to announce those selections at its Sept.14 meeting in Salmon.

On July 27, IWRB issued Flood District No. 9, in Blaine County, a $90,000 flood-management grant to restore the Big Wood River channel in the area of three irrigation head gate structures that serve 6,300 acres of agricultural land south of Bellevue, among other improvements. Flooding in the winter of 2017 changed the river channel to the point where it doesn’t adequately deliver water to head gate structures, officials said.

Separately, Blaine County received a flood-management grant of $121,331 to address multiple issues that have been causing the Big Wood River to flood in the Della View Subdivision in Hailey during high-water periods. The project will include activating a side channel on the river and developing conveyance channels in the subdivision.

Flood District No. 10 in Eagle received four flood-management grants totaling $292,758 to repair damages resulting from heavy flooding in the winter of 2017. IWRB said one project will shore up the banks of the Boise River adjacent to the New Dry Creek diversion structure, another will seal off the banks of the Boise River and stop the pit-capture of the river in the Duck Alley area, and two gravel-removal projects will restore water flows to damaged diversion projects and prevent erosion of private lands.

Recommended for you