Friday, May 25, 2007

Idaho water projects approved

Senate passes Water Resources Development Act

Express Staff Writer

Idaho communities may soon see new projects related to water, flood control and recreation.

The U.S. Senate last week approved the Water Resources Development Act, which includes a number of Idaho projects added by Idaho Senators Mike Crapo and Larry Craig. Craig is a member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, which crafted the bill.

The bill authorizes projects under the purview of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, including those for flood control, ecosystem improvements and recreation. Specific projects named in Idaho include:

· Little Wood River—Rehabilitation of the Gooding Canal Project for flood control and ecosystem restoration.

· Boise River—Studies on flood control, ecosystem restoration and water supply.

· Lower Granite Dam—Expedited permits for repair work at the dam on the Snake River.

· Dworshak Reservoir—Improvements for recreation near Orofino, including improved boat ramps, fishing access and campground upgrades.

· Port of Lewiston—Allows for port officials to consider increased recreational and commercial opportunities.

· Drinking and wastewater infrastructure—An increase from $25 million to $55 million to assist rural communities in constructing drinking and wastewater infrastructure.

· Eurasian milfoil study—Eurasian milfoil is an invasive aquatic plant particularly troublesome in northern Idaho.

· McNary Lock and Dam, and McNary National Wildlife Refuge—Directs the transfer of administrative jurisdiction over the land acquired for the McNary Lock and Dam project and managed by the Fish and Wildlife Service.

· Snake River project—Modifies the Snake River project in Oregon and Washington to amend the Fish and Wildlife compensation plan for the Lower Snake River, and authorizes ecosystem restoration and improvements for fisheries and wildlife.

· Columbia and Snake rivers waterway projects—Numerous projects on the Snake and Columbia rivers will assist north Idaho farmers in getting their products to market.

"The future use of, and amount of water available in, the Boise River drainage is a critical issue for immediate study and the legislation addresses this issue," Crapo stated in a press release.

Craig added that "Idaho wouldn't be the great state we know without developing our water resources. It isn't a one-time effort, which is why enacting this bill is so important. Idaho, and our country, will benefit with the improved infrastructure."

The legislation was approved by a vote of 91 to 4.

The U.S. House passed similar legislation in April. The Senate bill now must be reconciled with the House version before becoming law.

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