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In just 60 days, southwestern Idaho has gone from what looked to be a “poor” irrigation season, with much lower levels of water available than normal, to a “normal” water season with full irrigation allotments and flows. “It is amazing how quick things can turn around,” said Tim Page, project manager for the Boise Project Board of Control, which oversees five area irrigation districts. That was thanks to the big late-season snowfall in the high country that extended the season and built snowpacks up from subpar levels to healthy ones; click below for the Boise Project Board of Control's full irrigation season announcement. It includes this news: Starting April 9, the project will begin filling more than 460 canals and laterals in Ada and Canyon counties, meaning it's time to caution kids not to play in dangerous canals.
March precipitation amounts ranged from 103% to 190% of normal, according to the Idaho Natural Resources Conservation Service. “The water year started with four dry months from October to January,” said Ron Abramovich, water supply specialist with the Idaho NRCS. “The water supply made an amazing recovery due to the February and March precipitation.” However, he noted that some areas of the state still face water shortages, including the Big Wood, Big Lost, Little Lost, Oakley, Owyhee, and Salmon Falls basins.
Gov. Butch Otter kicked off an expanded canal safety campaign today, joining agriculture groups, Idaho Power, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, state broadcasters and more to launch a series of TV and radio ads and an expanded public education effort. “We have thousands of miles of canals in the state of Idaho,” Otter said. “They’re essential to our ag economy. … They can also be extremely deadly.”
Irrigation canals are cold, deep and swift, and often have nearly vertical banks, making it difficult for anyone who falls in to escape. They also have dangerous undertows and turbulence. Each year, a half dozen children and adults drown in Idaho canals, according to state figures; more children drown in canals every year in Idaho than in any other body of water.
“We need everybody to be aware of that, especially parents,” the governor declared.
Otter is featured on three 30-second TV commercials, including one targeted at children in which he appears with the cartoon character “Otto Otter.” Responding to the cartoon otter, the governor says, “Take it from this Otter – canals can kill. … This summer stay cool, but don’t use canals as your pool.” The ads start running throughout southern Idaho tomorrow.
The commercials also urge parents to keep kids away from canals, and urge pet owners to keep their pets out of the fast-running waterways. The campaign also includes an “Otto Otter” coloring book that will be distributed to children in school classrooms and that includes a Spanish-language version; a Spanish-language radio ad also will air.
Various groups conduct canal safety campaigns in southern Idaho each year and Otter has been involved with some of them in the past; this year, he pulled all the players together for a coordinated campaign that he estimated is worth $100,000, most of it in in-kind donations. “Every year we lose lives to these canals, so we’re going to do everything we can to help avoid that,” Otter said. “These canals are vital to our economy, but they can also be dangerous.”
WILDLIFE — Moose are finding new hazards in Eastern Washington as they stray from their strongholds in the wooded northeast portion of the state and wander west into the Columbia Basin.
This bull moose slipped into an irrigation canal and, like most wildlife and a few humans who get into this situation, it couldn't get out.
Tired from struggling with the steep sides and swift flowing water in the Esquatzel Diversion Channel, it curled up to rest on a clump of grass growing out of cracks in the concrete lined irrigation canal Monday about six miles north of Pasco, according to the Associated Press.
An officer from the Department of Fish and Wildlife later shot the animal because officials couldn’t determine a safe way to rescue the bull.
The meat will be donated to the Tri-City Union Gospel Mission.