In a complicated deal designed to address the fight between spring water users and groundwater users in the Magic Valley, the state has hatched a plan to buy out a 400-acre fish farm, Pristine Springs, in partnership with the city of Twin Falls and area water users. Under the plan, which just won unanimous approval in JFAC, the state would loan $10 million, which water users would pay back at $1 million a year for 10 years; the city of Twin Falls would kick in $10 million; water users would pay $1 million; and $5 million would come from money now in the Idaho Department of Water Resources revolving fund. That’s a total of $26 million. The proposal replaces a $9 million request in Gov. Butch Otter’s budget proposal for “fallowing” of farmland. By buying out the fish farm, which holds substantial water rights, farm land wouldn’t have to be taken out of production.
“It is my understanding that the governor’s office is aware and is in support of this direction,” Senate Finance Chairman Dean Cameron, R-Rupert, told JFAC.
Twin Falls is in “dire need” of water, said Sen. Steve Bair, R-Blackfoot. It’s now looking at a need to build a $30 million water treatment plant, unless it can get hold of lots more clear, clean water to dilute arsenic levels in its current water supply. The deal offers Twin Falls that chance. It also would resolve water calls from spring users. “All those calls are going to go away on a permanent fix,” Bair said. Said Cameron, “That gets it solved,” and added, “If we can buy this fish farm, then there’s no need for fallowing.” The fish farm property includes two small hydro generation facilities as well as 400 acres, the fish farm facility, and water rights. Idaho would decide later what to do with the property.