Carey city water part of Snake
One-year reprieve negotiated
"The legislative leadership,
the governor and lawyers came to the conclusion that this is serious and
we’re going to do some thing about it."
— CLINT STENNETT, Senate
Minority Leader, D-Ketchum
By MATT FURBER
Express Staff Writer
Advocates for groundwater users on
the north side of the Snake River—including the Carey Water and Sewer
District and the Carey Valley Groundwater Users—struck a tentative
agreement Monday to prevent the shutdown April of more than 1,300 wells
in Southcentral Idaho.
The Idaho Department of Water
Resources order had come at a time when the Carey Planning and Zoning
Commission is considering three subdivision applications. One of those
would require annexation into the water and sewer district to achieve
water utilities, said Carey Planning and Zoning Administrator Linda
"Rangen is calling for its 1962
water rights," Patterson said of the older water right holder, Rengan
Inc., a Hagerman aqua culture firm that said it was short 16,000-acre
feet of water last year. "Carey’s rights are after that date. We’ve got
to get more information (about the curtailment of water rights) before
we consider annexation requests into the Carey Water and Sewer
Senate Minority Leader Clint
Stennet, D-Ketchum, said Tuesday the negotiation if it goes forward will
delay enforcement of the water curtailment order for one year.
He said the negotiation in the
Legislature took all day Monday and that the debate was heated but taken
seriously by legislators, Gov. Dirk Kempthorne and attorneys.
"The legislative leadership, the
governor and lawyers came to the conclusion that this is serious and
we’re going to do some thing about it," he said. "Not everyone was happy
about it. But, I think everybody is coming to the same conclusion . . .
Its going to take a long time to heal the aquifer."
At issue is a Feb. 25 order by the
Idaho Department of Water Resources to curtail water rights conferred
after July 13, 1962, said IDWR spokesman Dick Larsen. "The older water
right is making the call."
The Carey Water and Sewer District
submitted a petition to inform IDWR about how the city would be impacted
if Carey municipal drinking water, included in the water right, was shut
"I don’t think they’ll shut it
off," said Craig Patterson, president of the Carey Water and Sewer
District. "That’d be kind of crazy."
But, until the issue is resolved
the city will hold off from processing subdivision applications, Linda
"With respect to groundwater (the
conflict) is quite unique in the state in terms of breadth," said Dana
Hofstetter, the attorney who filed the petition Friday on behalf of the
Carey Water and Sewer District in protest of the curtailment order. "The
order effects a large portion of the Eastern Snake River Plain Aquifer."
As at least 21 protests like the
Carey Water and Sewer petition poured into IDWR offices this week, the
dynamics of the competition for water became apparent, Larsen said.
"We’re seeing spring levels
similar to the drought of 1987 to 1992; 1992 was the worst year. We’re
seeing spring flow levels equivalent to that," he said. "(The
curtailment order) is due almost entirely to four years of severe
drought. It’s like the snake that starts eating on its own tail. Next
year will be just as bad or worse...each of our drought years is worse
than the last one."
Larsen said the dynamics of water
use also impact the lowering aquifer.
"When it’s hot people start
pumping to their full rights to irrigate," he said. "The irrigation
season is warm rather than cool and moist. All the factors at one time
(have) pounded our water levels. The (aquifer’s) springs (in Hagerman)
themselves have been injured. It isn’t about how much you’ve lost its
about not getting what your rights allow."
The water Rangen expects to be
short could be delivered in two ways.
"We could put it back into aquifer
to get it to him or we could find a fish hatchery to buy the water
from," Larsen said. "It’s a really important thing."
Conservation will be part of the
one-year compromise and the terms could be set by the end of the week,
Stennet said. The big question is enforcement.
Larsen agreed. "If we order
someone to shut off their water, they are probably going to turn it back
on 20 minutes after we leave," he said.
The agreement will include hiring
a new enforcement officer for the IDWR, Stennet said.