Friday, July 20, 2007

State expedites water-right transfers

Idaho Department of Water Resources hopes to encourage voluntary curtailment

Express Staff Writer

The Idaho Department of Water Resources has instituted a new policy meant to fast-track water-right transfers for landowners in the eastern Snake River Plain Aquifer region who enroll in the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program.

The expedited transfer policy has been established in order to encourage voluntary curtailment, an IDWR press release states. Under the new policy, water-right transfers that normally would have taken between six months and a year to complete will in many cases now only take 90 days.

The new policy should also make enrollment in the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program a more viable option for many landowners. The program, which is administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Farm Service Agency, is a voluntary land-retirement program that helps agricultural producers safeguard ground and surface water by retiring land from agricultural production.

Under CREP, water that would normally be used to irrigate is instead conserved. According to the IDWR press release, the program is a cost-effective option that provides farmers and ranchers with a sound financial package for conserving and enhancing natural resources.

"Our goal is to encourage as many landowners in the eastern Snake River Plain as possible to enroll in the CREP program before the end-of-year deadline," IDWR Director David Tuthill said. "This is to promote voluntary curtailment for aquifer management rather than mandatory curtailment in times of shortage."

CREP contracts require a 10- to 15-year commitment. Not only must the land have a valid water right, but the landowner must also have owned the property for at least one year prior to enrollment to be eligible.

For an expedited water-right transfer to proceed, the IDWR requires that a water-right transfer application and a CREP application be filed simultaneously.

Additional information about enrolling in the CREP program can be obtained by calling the Eastern Office of IDWR in Idaho Falls at (208) 525-7161 or the Southern Office in Twin Falls at (208) 736-3033.

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