Amid all of the chatter about taking out dams in California and
the Northwest and thus crippling much of the regionís
irrigation, river transportation and electrical generation
capacity, we note a bright spot in Idaho.
That stateís leaders, along with federal leaders, are
considering expanding the Anderson Ranch Dam near Mountain Home
to increase storage of water for irrigation and to accommodate
urban growth in southern Idaho.
The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation is supposed to issue its final
environmental impact statement on the Anderson Ranch Dam next
spring, clearing the way for raising it by 6 feet. When
completed, it will store an additional 29,000 acre-feet of water
from the South Fork of the Boise River. The dam currently has a
capacity of 413,000 acre-feet.
The project is one of several aimed at preserving and expanding
the availability of water in Idaho, especially in the dry
southern one-third of the state that depends on irrigation and
has the most people.
In addition to expanding reservoir capacity behind dams, the
state has an aggressive aquifer recharge effort underway. During
the winter, when water is relatively plentiful, it is pumped
into the 10,000-square-mile Eastern Snake Plain Aquifer. Last
winter alone, upward of 450,000 acre-feet were injected into the
aquifer, which in turn can be tapped in the dry summer growing
season for irrigation. The goal is to add at least 250,000
acre-feet to the aquifer each year.
Other states recharge aquifers, too, but not on the scale of
And other states continue to become wrapped up in arguments
advocating taking dams down. Fish. Aesthetics. Culture. You get
the idea. Combined, the arguments donít come near to offsetting
the value of dams: water for people and irrigation, flood
control, recreation and transportation.
We understand that Idaho is not perfect, but when it comes to
water management the stateís leaders, farmers and ranchers take
And with seriousness comes success.
In the future, should leaders in Washington, California and
Oregon continue to succumb to the fad of taking out dams and
face more water shortages, higher electricity costs and a
jumbled transportation system as a result, they need only look
to Idaho to see where they went wrong.
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