Reader's View: More storage might be necessary as water levels fluctuate

September 20, 2013 

It is obvious, the last three years had been more than enough water to supply the needs of the Valley. However, 2013 has been a different story due to the less-than-adequate precipitation during the last two months of 2012 and the first four to five months of this year.

The Boise Project Board of Control has approximately 85 percent of storage in Arrowrock and Anderson Ranch Reservoir and utilizes Lake Lowell as a holding pond for approximately 47,000 acres below the lake. Lucky Peak is a flood control reservoir including recreational use where Boise Project has no storage space.

During good years, the river produces enough surface water to fill these reservoirs and keep the river flowing with adequate water for downstream and upstream users sometimes until June or early July.

The question that has been asked a number of times this year is why some landowners, rotations and/or subdivisions served by the Boise Project Board of Control do not have enough surface irrigation water to get them through the irrigation season. And the answer is in the above-mentioned comments.

The reservoir system did not fill and the river did not produce as much as it has in the past. Due to those reasons, the Board of Control had to set an allotment early at the beginning of the season at 1 foot per acre. It then increased it to 1.4 feet per acre on June 8th after the majority of the snow pack had melted.

One way to have sufficient surface irrigation water for the Valley in the future is to capture most, if not all, of the runoff on a normal or above-normal year during the spring runoff, requiring additional storage.

It was a high water year in 2010 and Boise River levels were at flood stage (7,500 cubic feet per second) for large portions of June. Without Arrowrock, Anderson Ranch and Lucky Peak, we would have likely seen flooding like the floods of 1943 that prompted the construction of Lucky Peak Reservoir.

Besides the obvious benefits of flood control for the Treasure Valley, Boise was able to build the Greenbelt, rafters and floaters were able to float the river, irrigation water was available, and power was created by these reservoirs.

Even though we have one of the earliest water turnoffs in a while (Sept. 5), we wouldn’t have this had it not been for the storage in Anderson Ranch, Arrowrock, Lucky Peak and Lake Lowell in Canyon County. These four storage areas have helped homeowners and farmers alike keep their lawns green and crops growing for another summer.

It’s evident that the storage in place is critical for the population numbers we already have in this valley. It becomes more evident every year that with the growing population and the concurrent demands for water that additional storage is probably necessary. There might be those that are opposed to this idea, but the major swings in water availability over the last several years is a clear demonstration that Boise would have been ravaged by floods during the higher precipitation years and would have suffered economy-killing drought during the less than adequate precipitation years.

Tim Page is project manager for the Boise Project Board of Control.

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