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Water release could hurt farmers

Sat., Jan. 5, 2013

SHOSHONE, Idaho – The recent release of water from Magic Reservoir to make repairs to a leaking hydraulic oil line could mean lost crops for farmers who depend on the water, an irrigation official with the Big Wood Canal Co. says.

Company Chairman Carl Pendleton said it’s hard to know for sure if the 40,000 acre-feet of water released in November will be needed this spring. An acre-foot is the amount of water that covers an acre with a foot of water.

“It could cost us $3 million if we need this 40,000 this year,” Pendleton told the Times-News newspaper. “But if we don’t need it, then this whole project will cost us nothing.”

The south-central Idaho reservoir held 54,000 acre-feet of water just before the release. On Thursday the reservoir held about 18,000 acre-feet, well below the reservoir’s capacity of 191,000 acre-feet.

“We’ve had history of being totally dry, and then last year we were at 114,000 acre-feet,” Pendleton said. “We would have had 60,000-plus today if we hadn’t released. It’s not the best situation to be in, but it’s farming.”

Water was released so workers could make repairs at the Magic Reservoir Hydroelectric plant.

But the water was released only after 5th District Court Judge Robert Elgee on Oct. 23 ordered the canal company to release the water 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.

Magic Reservoir Hydroelectric said in the lawsuit it needed the reservoir lowered so it could make repairs to the leaking hydraulic oil line, and that it faced fines of $32,250 a day from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency if the line wasn’t repaired.

There has also been concern about how the water release might affect the fish population in the reservoir. Scott Boettger, executive director of the Wood River Valley Land Trust, said flushing the water out of the reservoir could push fish downstream.


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