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News >  Idaho

Suit challenges Idaho water rules

Associated Press

BOISE – A coalition of reservoir and irrigation districts is suing the director of the state Department of Water Resources, challenging the rules used to manage both surface and ground water.

The Twin Falls Canal Co., American Falls Reservoir District No. 2, A and B Irrigation District, Burley Irrigation District and Minidoka Irrigation District – five of seven members in a group called the Surface Water Coalition – filed the lawsuit in state court this past week, asking the court to determine the validity of rules that allow for the joint administration of both surface and ground water.

A Water Resources spokesman declined to comment on the lawsuit, which stems from a dispute between water users in drought-parched southern Idaho.

In January, seven irrigation districts and canal companies in the Twin Falls region asked the water resources department to grant them their full surface water rights.

Because Idaho’s water law gives those with the oldest water rights priority over younger water rights holders, the request had the potential of shutting down groundwater pumpers in the region.

In April, Water Resources’ director, Karl Dreher, estimated that the surface water users had suffered a loss of 133,400 acre-feet of water because of groundwater pumping.

One acre-foot of water is enough to cover an acre of land one foot deep.

Dreher ordered groundwater users to provide at least 27,700 acre-feet of water to alleviate the surface water users’ concerns.

But he reserved the right to adjust the total amount based on how water conditions changed. He also said he would wait until after the 2005 irrigation season to decide if additional replacement water was needed.

A hearing on the matter is scheduled for January.

Members of the Surface Water Coalition said Dreher’s response was unsatisfactory.

Travis Thompson, attorney for the Twin Falls Canal Co., says the group made the water request in January and is still waiting for an answer.

“We don’t have any relief this season,” Thompson said.

Mike Creamer, attorney for the Idaho Groundwater Appropriators, said the lawsuit seeks to stop groundwater users from pumping any water.

“These are efforts to avoid an administrative hearing,” Creamer said.

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