Idaho awards grants for fixing aging water infrastructure

By Brad Carlson; Capital Press

Joe Tackett and Greg Curtis of Nampa and Meridian, Idaho, Irrigation District at the Ridenbaugh Canal headworks on the Boise River. Brad Carlson/Capital Press

The Idaho Water Resource Board on Sept. 16 approved 12 grants totaling $12.5 million to upgrade aging irrigation infrastructure.

The board’s finance committee on Sept. 8 endorsed the grant recipients and dollar amounts, which the full board approved. The board received 31 requests for a combined $41 million.

A single region cannot get more than half of the money.

In the southwest, for example, the state approved a grant of $1.82 million rather than the $3.18 million Nampa and Meridian Irrigation District requested to modernize Ridenbaugh Canal. District directors will decide how to proceed with the project, said Greg Curtis, water superintendent.

The Ridenbaugh project, now valued at nearly $10 million, would include an automated bladder dam at the canal’s headworks. The dam would replace a 1930s concrete structure where long boards are added and removed manually to control Boise River inflow and deliveries.

Curtis said the project will substantially increase control, safety and efficiency, and improve fish passage. It will also save substantial labor at and near Ridenbaugh headworks, said Joe Tackett, a ditch rider.

Brian Olmstead, a Water Resource Board member from the south-central region, said the next round of applications should include a dollar limit per grant so more projects in a region can be funded.

Finance committee members said grant proceeds cannot be used to recover costs on work already started and funded.

For example, work on the American Falls Dam spillway, to be completed by month’s end, was ineligible.

The program can award up to $25 million overall. The first round of awards was capped at $12.5 million.

Neeley Miller, water resource planner at the state Department of Water Resources, said the timeline for the second round of grant awards, will soon be announced.

The 2022 Legislature appropriated $75 million for the Water Resource Board to fund projects or studies that address sustainability, rehabilitate or improve aging infrastructure, or that support flood management. Up to one-third of the total can be used for grants.

First-round grants, not including requests for Water Resource Board loan or other matching funds:

• Bannock Feeder, diversion replacement, $250,000 requested and received, $885,110 total project cost.

• Big Lost, dam repair, $2 million requested and received, $9 million project.

• Boise Project Board of Control, New York Canal lining, $2.4 million requested and received, $7.33 million project.

• Chester Canal & Irrigation Co., diversion headgate, $29,725 requested and received, $129,238 project.

• Dalton Gardens Irrigation District, delivery improvements, $23,460 requested and received, $69,000 project.

• Enterprise Canal Co., convert canal to pipeline, $2.7 million requested and received, $8.2 million project.

• Falls Irrigation District, pump station rehabilitation, $3 million requested, $200,588 awarded, $9.0 million project.

• Fremont Madison Irrigation District, upgrades to diversion structures, $58,200 requested and received, $232,874 project.

• King Hill Irrigation District, pump station and closed conduit, $1.9 million requested and received, $6.1 million project.

• Nampa & Meridian Irrigation District, Ridenbaugh Canal modernization, $3.1 million requested, $1.8 million received, $9.6 million project.

• North Side Pumping Co. No. 2, pump station and canal abandonment, $951,800 requested and received, $4.1 million project.

• Water District 63, Boise River monitoring system upgrades, $30,793 requested and received, $133,883 cost.

Organizations that can apply for the grants include irrigation districts, irrigation boards of control, canal and ditch companies, drainage and groundwater districts, lateral ditch user associations, municipal irrigation districts, municipalities and counties, and water districts.

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