Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Developer initiates Hailey water study

City braces for stricter water use

Harry Rinker

The city of Hailey has accepted an offer from developer Harry Rinker to conduct a study of water rights and water consumption in the city and on Rinker's 160-acre Peregrine Ranch, a property north of Hailey slated for development.

The goal of the month-long study will be to assess the possibility of recharging groundwater supplies to offset possible future curtailment of groundwater rights by the Idaho Department of Water Resources.

"With your encouragement, we will spend what it takes and move forward on this," Rinker said during a City Council meeting Monday night.

Charles Brockway of Brockway Engineering in Twin Falls will work with Rinker on the study.

"This could benefit Peregrine Ranch as well as the city of Hailey and the Blaine County School District," Brockway said.

He alerted the council to new "conjunctive management" practices that are likely to be enforced in the Wood River Valley in coming years by the IDWR.

Conjunctive management is an innovative regulatory practice that manages surface water, or irrigation water rights, along with groundwater, or well-pumping rights. When priority dates of the two kinds of water rights are managed together, the well user typically loses if the water is used for "consumptive uses," such as watering lawns.

IDWR Director David Tuthill said conjunctive management likely will come to the Wood River Valley in the next five years following the Snake River Basin Adjudication. He said his office is currently responding to a complaint by the Big Wood Canal Co., which claims surface water rights that are senior to groundwater rights used by residents of the Wood River Valley.

"There are consumptive uses in Hailey and there are non-consumptive uses," Tuthill said. "Household uses are non-consumptive. Watering lawns is consumptive. During dry periods, Hailey wells could be shut down to protect water supplies for downstream use by senior water rights holders. It is worthwhile now to look into ways the city might mitigate senior water rights users for the diminishment of their water supplies."

Tuthill pointed out that under some circumstances, capturing spring floodwater in ponds can provide recharge mitigation for consumptive uses.

Rinker's study is aimed at establishing a joint recharge-mitigation effort to protect the groundwater rights in and around Hailey by capturing water from Hiawatha Canal and unused acreage on Peregrine Ranch and elsewhere in the city and delivering it back into the ground. The study will begin by establishing the amount of consumptive use in Hailey and determining where excess water is going.

"I see this as a learning tool," said Hailey Mayor Rick Davis.

In other Hailey news:

·  The Hailey City Council voted to renew a contract with the Blaine County Housing Authority for the remainder 2008 and to reimburse BCHA $6,150 for fees associated with writing alternative deed restrictions for the Cutters subdivision, on the east side of the city.

·  Mary Cone was sworn in as the new Hailey city clerk.

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