So far so good: Water outlook looks promising

Idaho News
By Hannah Ashton; Citizen Tribune Water experts are cautiously optimistic about the 2022 water year. As of Jan. 1, nearly the entire state has seen above-normal snow water equivalent, which describes the amount of water in the snowpack if it was melted, said Daniel Tappa, hydrologist with the Natural Resource Conservation Service. The new water year started Oct. 1. Many of the basins across the state have a buffer, meaning they have a higher snow water equivalent than the same time last year, Tappa said during the Idaho Water Supply Committee meeting on Thursday. Soil moisture is another check in the positive column. Across the state, soil moisture is high due to warmer than normal temperatures in November. Moist soils mean the ground won’t absorb all the water from snowmelt…
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Port on Columbia River Fined $1.3M Over Nitrate Violations

Idaho News, National News
By The Associated Press; The Oregonian BOARDMAN, Ore. (AP) — Oregon has fined the Port of Morrow along the Columbia River $1.3 million for repeatedly over-applying agricultural wastewater on nearby farms in an area that already has elevated levels of groundwater nitrates. The Capital Press reports the state Department of Environmental Quality announced the fine Tuesday. High levels of nitrates in drinking water are linked with serious health concerns, particularly for babies and pregnant women. The Port of Morrow is Oregon’s second-largest port, behind the Port of Portland. It is in the Umatilla Basin of northeast Oregon, where in 1990 the state declared a Groundwater Management Area because of high levels of groundwater nitrates. Groundwater is used as a primary source of drinking water across the basin, which spans northern Umatilla and…
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More rain and snow needed to pull Idaho out of drought conditions

Idaho News
By Katija Stjepovic, Idaho Press The snow pack in the Payette River drainage that provides irrigation water for the Emmett Valley is above normal for this time of year after last week’s storm. As of January 1 the snowpack levels for the Payette drainage are reported at 112 percent. The Treasure Valley, and many parts of Idaho, has already seen numerous inches of snowfall this season, but it is too soon to say if it is enough to dig Idaho out of the current drought conditions. The Boise Airport recorded 15 inches of snowfall in December. According to meteorologist Chuck Redman with the National Weather Service, Boise Airport’s average snowfall is anywhere from five to six inches. “We are doing really good right now,” Redman said. On Saturday, Brundage Mountain…
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Clean water at Canyon

Idaho News
By Chelsea Newby, Shoshone News Press CATALDO — Canyon Elementary School appears to have found the light at the end of the tunnel for its school’s water system worries. The rural elementary school has been operating under Panhandle Health’s boil order since Oct. 20, after its quarterly water sample led to the discovery of E. coli bacteria in the school’s reservoir tank. After several minor repairs and attempts to clean the tank proved unsuccessful, the school went on to hire a specialty company to perform a final deep-cleaning and extended chlorination flush of the reservoir tank during the school's Thanksgiving break. Canyon Elementary students and staff are back to using the water for hand washing only — taking extra precautions until Jan. 3 when results of the final water sample…
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$2 million boost to Lake CDA

Idaho News
By Madison Hardy, Coeur d'Alene Press The Coeur d'Alene Basin could see 11 nutrient-reducing measures come to fruition in 2022 following state approval on Friday.  Members of the Coeur d'Alene Lake Advisory Commission ended their three-month mission on Wednesday afternoon to recommend a set of projects designed to improve the health of the lake city's beloved water body.  A subset of Gov. Brad Little's Building Idaho's Future initiative, the CLAC solicited and reviewed 40 eligible proposals vying for $2 million in state funding.  "One thing I was encouraged about is in the short window we gave for applications, we still came up with over 40 projects," CLAC member Hemene James said. "Now imagine if we were to meet again, imagine the influx of applications we would receive ... I think…
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Otters become regular visitors to Pocatello fishing pond

Idaho News
By Candice Spector; Idaho State Journal A group ofotters has been hanging out in fishing pond in Edson Fichter Nature Area in Pocotello. Kyle Riley for The Journal POCATELLO — A small group of otters has been swimming around in a fishing pond in the Edson Fichter Nature Area in Pocatello in recent weeks, catching the attention of local wildlife experts who say the animals’ presence there is a first. The otters were first reported there by nature area visitors a few weeks ago, according to Southeast Regional Wildlife Manager Zach Lockyer of Idaho Fish and Game. Lockyer said while river otters are native to Southeast Idaho in the Portneuf and Snake rivers, he’s never heard of them spending time in that pond until now. The otters likely came from…
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All Health Advisories for Toxic Algae in North Idaho Lifted

Idaho News
KREM 2 Credit: Panhandle Health District IDAHO, USA — All health advisory warnings that were issued for toxic algae blooms in summer months for counties in North Idaho have been lifted. The Panhandle Health District (PHD) and the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) announced that there are still some ongoing blooms in North Idaho, but the recreation season has ended and the risk of human exposure has been greatly reduced. Cold weather and rain have a tendency to dissipate HABs, but the public is advised to stay away from water that is discolored, with streaks or globs of scum, or where thick green mats have formed along lake shorelines.  Surface Water Manager with the DEQ Bob Steed said high temperatures led to significantly more harmful blooms than have been…
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Farmers Provide Crucial Habitat for Migratory Waterfowl

Idaho News
By Carol Ryan Dumas, Capital Press ROBERTS, Idaho — Richard Gilchrist raises a small herd of Angus cross cattle about 20 miles northwest of Idaho Falls. He also flood irrigates his pasture and the alfalfa and grass he grows for hay, a practice that is falling out of favor among irrigators who seek efficiency in their operations. But Gilchrist’s goal goes beyond irrigation efficiency. “I’m interested in preserving the habitat for the birds and the various wildlife,” he said. He has two plots, each about 150 acres. One is bordered on two sides by the Market Lake Wildlife Management Area, more than 6,000 acres of stopover habitat for waterfowl and nesting habitat for some bird species. His flood-irrigated fields are an integral part of the birds’ survival, providing food and…
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Cascade Reservoir Water Quality Study Set

Idaho News
By Brad Carlson, Capital Press The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation will study the Cascade Reservoir in Idaho to figure out ways to improve its water quality. Cascade Reservoir, near timberlands and meadows about 80 miles north of Boise, is shallow and subject to algae blooms. The blooms are driven by high water temperatures and nutrient levels. It also is known as Lake Cascade. The Snake River Area Office received a $308,200 grant for the pilot project to model the reservoir's operations. The goal is to find operations-related ways to improve water quality. The pilot project will evaluate whether operations at Cascade and nearby Deadwood Reservoir can be coordinated to improve water quality. Operating alternatives will consider “all requirements and constraints” such as physical capacity, irrigation demands, flow augmentation and flood…
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The 2021 Water Year: Anything But Normal

Idaho News
By Mychel Matthews and Hannah Ashton, Times News TWIN FALLS — An uncertain winter snowpack, empty reservoirs on the Upper Snake River, and the prediction of the repeat La Nina weather pattern will force farmers in the south-central Idaho desert to make tough decisions about what crops to grow in 2022. Crops in the Magic Valley significantly suffered through the past year’s hot, dry growing conditions and growers now worry about next year. Idaho is in a drought “that is unprecedented in recent memory,” according to the Idaho Department Resources. An exceptionally dry spring followed by a summer heatwave resulted in the driest March-to-July period since 1924. To date, 2021 is the 15th driest year Twin Falls has experienced since the town’s inception, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric…
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