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Editorial: Idaho leads the way in water management


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 Idaho.

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 it seriously.

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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