KETCHUM, Idaho – A judge who ordered a canal company to release water from a dam in south-central Idaho so a leaking hydraulic oil line could be repaired has been disqualified from the legal process at the request of the canal company.
The Big Wood Canal Co. filed a disqualification motion against 5th District Court Judge Robert Elgee on Nov. 1, the Idaho Mountain Express reported.
Elgee on Oct. 23 ordered the company to release water from Magic Reservoir after Magic Reservoir Hydroelectric, a wholly-owned subsidiary of J.R. Simplot Co., filed a lawsuit seeking to force the canal company to release water.
Idaho judicial rules allow a litigant to disqualify one judge without stating a reason. The case has been assigned to 5th District Court Judge Jonathan Brody, and a hearing is scheduled in Hailey for Nov. 20.
Magic Reservoir Hydroelectric said in the lawsuit that it needed the reservoir lowered so it could make repairs to a leaking hydraulic oil line. The company said it faced fines of up to $32,000 a day from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
The company, besides requesting the drawdown, also asked for attorney fees and other costs the court deems appropriate.
In court documents, the canal company said releasing water could jeopardize water reserves for the 2013 irrigation season.
But the canal company on Oct. 29 announced that it would release the water from the reservoir that at that time held about 54,000 acre-feet of water. It said the drawdown would require about a third of that to be released.
The release from the reservoir has ramped up in recent days, with the Big Wood River flowing at 1,130 cubic feet per second below the dam on Thursday, well above the typical flow for this time of year.