Friday, March 14, 2008

Give the gift of water

Meeting set to discuss Wood River Legacy Project


By JASON KAUFFMAN
Express Staff Writer

The Hailey-based Wood River Land Trust will host a public meeting next week at which water experts will explain how water rights holders can donate their water to benefit local streams and rivers.

The meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, March 18, at 6:30 p.m. at the Community Campus, 1050 Fox Acres Road, in Hailey.

At the heart of the meeting will be a discussion of how the recently approved Wood River Legacy Project works. Idaho Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter signed the legislation into law in March 2007.

The purpose of the Legacy Project is to enhance streamflows on both the Big Wood River and Silver Creek through the voluntary donation of water rights during the irrigation season. Water rights holders can donate their rights for as little as one year, while preserving ownership of their priority dates.

Hailey resident Rich McIntyre, who owns his own consulting business, was one of the project's key promoters.

McIntyre launched the project several years ago with the backing of Idaho Rivers United. It originally sought to add flows just to the Big Wood River—specifically a 12-mile stretch south of Bellevue that runs dry most of the year—by giving water rights holders the opportunity to keep some or all of their water in-stream. In most cases, Idaho water law forces people to use all of their allotted water or risk losing their rights to it, a policy known as "use it or lose it."

As first proposed, the bill—SB 1136—initially angered farmers and ranchers in the Bellevue Triangle, who contended it would diminish their water supplies and reduce flows in nearby Silver Creek, whose aquifer depends partly on flows in an irrigation canal. But under pressure from the Triangle irrigators, the Legislature made major revisions to the bill, including a requirement that water donated above the irrigation canal be directed through it.

For additional information on the Legacy Project or next week's meeting, contact Kathryn Goldman, project coordinator for the land trust, at 788-3947 or by e-mail at kgoldman@woodriverlandtrust.org.




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