Elmore County proposes piping water from South Fork Boise River to Mountain Home

Anderson Ranch Reservoir is wide open for boating, and lures anglers and waterskiers.
Anderson Ranch Reservoir is wide open for boating, and lures anglers and waterskiers. pzimowsky@idahostatesman.com

Elmore County wants to pipe water from the South Fork Boise River to Mountain Home to help alleviate its water shortage by recharging its depleted aquifer.

Idaho Department of Water Resources is holding a hearing this week on a controversial Elmore County Board of Commissioners water right application to pump annually up to 10,000 acre-feet of water out of Anderson Ranch Reservoir located about 25 miles northeast of Mountain Home.

The county’s plan calls for building a pipeline from Anderson Ranch Reservoir to Little Camas Reservoir, where the water would be diverted along the Long Tom and Canyon creek drainages to Mountain Home Reservoir, located north of Interstate 84 on the west side of Idaho 20, for groundwater recharge through reservoir leakage and/or irrigation purposes.

The proposal is the first of its kind in Idaho because it is an interbasin water transfer “literally taking water from one watershed and pumping it into a different one,” Idaho Conservation League’s Marie Kellner told the Statesman.

Additionally, Kellner notes, “This water right stands to reduce critical high flows on the South Fork Boise River. Flows that are necessary to maintain its fishery and boating opportunities.”

Idaho Conservation League, city of Boise, Bureau of Land Management and more than one dozen area irrigation districts all have filed protests on the water right application, saying the unprecedented proposal has a multitude of problems.

Idaho Department of Fish and Game is not officially protesting the application, but it has submitted a 22-page letter to Idaho Department of Water Resources detailing the effect the project could have on fish and wildlife resources.

Idaho Department of Water Resources will take public comment on the proposal from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Monday, Dec. 10, at its office in the Idaho Water Center, 322 E. Front St. in Boise.

A decision on the application is not expected until after the first of the year.

Cynthia Sewell is the Idaho Statesman’s government investigative reporter. Contact her at (208) 377-6428, csewell@idahostatesman.com or @CynthiaSewell on Twitter.
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