Idaho Water Resource Board invests in aquifer recharge, irrigation efficiency projects

Capital Press

The Idaho Water Resource Board’s Milepost 31 Eastern Snake Plain Aquifer recharge site. Projects adding to recharge capacity are among those funded by the board Nov. 18.

Boosting aquifer levels and improving irrigation delivery efficiency are the focus of Idaho Water Resource Board moves to financially support several projects in the state’s south-central and southeast regions.

The board Nov. 18 approved a $14.1 million loan to Raft River Recharge Group. Plans call for building a pump station on the Snake River, a 13-mile pipeline, and recharge basins to add water to a declining aquifer in a state-designated critical groundwater management area.

The declining aquifer levels are a key factor in intermittent surface flows on the Raft River, a Snake tributary. Most farmers are now pumping groundwater for irrigation, and the project will increase agricultural sustainability, a news release from the board said.

The project’s cost totals $48.6 million, including $28.2 million allocated by the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service and a $6.2 million cash match from the recharge group.

Adding capacity to the board’s annual Eastern Snake Plain Aquifer recharge effort, which it conducts in the irrigation offseason, is the focus of other projects on which the board voted to spend. Two new injection wells were improved in the Southwest Idaho Irrigation District project area at a cost of $245,000. The board also approved two new recharge sites, in partnership with Enterprise Canal Co., for $3.4 million. Both projects were funded with American Rescue Plan Act money.

The board approved a $1.2 million loan to Northside Pumping Co., near Twin Falls, to improve several pump stations and increase irrigation efficiency. The board also approved adding $650,000 to a loan with Blaine County Canal Co., bringing the total loan amount to $1.8 million, to cover higher pipeline costs and other infrastructure expenses.

The board also agreed to pass 200 cubic feet per second of water below Milner Dam from Dec. 1 to Feb. 15 to provide Middle Snake flows for hydropower. The board said Idaho Power Co. requested the change to better balance winter flows between aquifer recharge and hydropower production.

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