Release For Immediate Use – April 26, 2017
Contact: Roger Batt: (208) 412-5760 or (208) 888-0988
With well-calculated flood control releases adding to the already swelling Boise River, State water officials are blatantly ignoring a congressionally-approved plan for Boise River reservoir operations that regulates and protects the irrigation storage water rights of Treasure Valley residents – rights that have been in place and working for over 60-years, according to the Treasure Valley Water Users Association (TVWUA).
“The State has developed a mystifying theory that water sent down river for flood control purposes should count against the total amount of irrigation water you would normally receive during the hot summer months. This is water that cannot be stored for any future use but now the State is saying it is supposed to count against you as if you had put it onto your croplands, pastures, yards or gardens for irrigation purposes. It is beyond any rational explanation,” said Roger Batt, TVWUA Executive Director.
This year flood control releases began in mid-February when fields and canals were generally still under snow and ice and too wet to even work the land. Yet under the State’s theory and legal position the water from flood control releases during this period of time would be counted against Treasure Valley water users as water they are putting to some kind of beneficial use.
“It defies any kind of common sense. Flood control is not considered a beneficial use under Idaho water law to satisfy a water right. Furthermore, no water user who agreed to the reservoir operating plan now in place for six decades would have done so knowing that flood control releases would be counted against their storage water rights,” Batt added.
The reservoir operating plan was worked out between the State, the Federal government and Treasure Valley water users, and approved by Congress in 1954 to provide flood control and irrigation storage for the valley.
The plan calls for space to be maintained in the reservoirs for flood control to capture high runoff and control reservoir releases and river flows through the Treasure Valley to prevent catastrophic flooding. As the risk of flooding subsides, the reservoirs are then filled to provide water for irrigation, recreation and other uses during the coming months. Historically, flood control releases are needed 7 out of every 10 years.
So far this year more than 950,000 acre feet of water have been released from flood control operations that are expected to continue for weeks. That’s near equal to the total capacity of 983,000 acre feet of storage in all three Boise River Basin reservoirs – Lucky Peak, Arrowrock and Anderson Ranch. Current flood control operations could last until June according to reservoir managers.
The Treasure Valley Water Users Association stresses that the issue is not about whether water should be released for flood control; TVWUA totally supports protecting area citizens from the frequent devastating floods. But the group is totally opposed to the State changing how those releases are now being accounted for and the fact that the State is challenging the Treasure Valley irrigator’s storage water rights in court.
“Water users in the Treasure Valley are asking us “Why is the state challenging the validity of our long-standing water rights? How can water released for flood control purposes (something necessary to protect our community) count against us as water that is being used,” Batt said.
Under the State’s theory, irrigation water that has been historically available for irrigation purposes would now be exhausted because its users would have been charged for using it during flood control operations. That would exhaust storage water allotments that are used to supplement river flows during the hot months of the summer.
“That would have devastating consequences for the Treasure Valley and the State. In a year like this one, under the State’s theory, our storage water allotments would be exhausted by the time natural flows in the river were depleted in June or July. Imagine what would happen if all irrigation water was gone by then,” Batt said.
The Treasure Valley Water Users Association is a regional organization developed to address the need for coordinated collaboration among water delivery entities for the mutual benefit of their respective water users within the Boise River Basin. Its members operate irrigation delivery systems containing approximately 1,500 miles of canals and laterals that provide irrigation water to almost 400,000 acres of land from Boise to Parma including farms, ranches, residential sub-divisions, cities, parks, golf courses, schools businesses and other sources.
**Photos 1 & 2 Description – A Treasure Valley canal and field under snow and ice during the time flood control releases were being made – during the time the State of Idaho claims those flood control releases should count against the irrigators as water being used.**