Wednesday, March 1, 2006

Let's connect the Big Wood again

Guest opinion by Rich McIntyre

Rich McIntyre is project director of The Wood River Legacy Project sponsored by Idaho Rivers United.


I wanted to compliment Steve Benson on his Feb. 24 article on the Wood River Legacy Project. The concept of a reconnected, living Big Wood River is something everyone can support and his article introduced the project to the people of our community.

A reconnected, living Big Wood River with 33 percent more length has clear benefits for the basin community, as does more water in Silver Creek and increased flows into Magic Reservoir (including the intriguing potential to negotiate for a year-round, tailwater fishery below Magic). That bright, promising future hinges on two key elements: raising money to support the effort, and creating a bipartisan, three-county coalition that will stand together to see a basin pilot project authorized in the Idaho Legislature.

We agree with Commissioner Dennis Wright, who said, "I don't see the state of Idaho purchasing water rights." There is no expectation of the state buying water rights, nor should there be. The water belongs to the people of the state, with water-right holders permitted to use the water on a beneficial basis.

The Wood River Legacy Project is designed to allow people with vested water rights to place all or part of their water right back in-stream with no loss of priority date. That is currently disallowed under Idaho water law, and the inability to convey those water rights to in-stream uses undercuts any opportunity to restore stream flows and associated fish and wildlife habitat. In our basin, it also results in a dry lower Big Wood River and reduces down basin water delivery.

The Wood River Legacy Project is a community-driven effort directed by a basin advisory group. Your counsel, involvement and financial support are critical and will dictate whether a reconnected, living river is a legacy we will leave to our children. Join us.

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