Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Drawdown at Magic complete

Canal company still forced to release reservoir inflow

Express Staff Writer

“A Good Year” The Big Wood Canal Co. has completed a water drawdown at Magic Reservoir so that repairs can be made on a hydraulic oil line at the Magic Dam hydroelectric plant. However, the company is still unable to start refilling the reservoir as it waits for repairs to be made. Express photo by David N. Seelig

    The Big Wood Canal Co. has released some 20,000 acre feet of water from Magic Reservoir in south Blaine County but is still unable to retain inflow coming into the reservoir because the company is still waiting for repairs to be made at the Magic Dam hydroelectric plant.
    Company board Chair Carl Pendleton, a resident of Shoshone, said Tuesday that the reservoir level is at about 35,000 acre feet, low enough for repairs on a hydraulic oil line to be made by electric-generation plant owner Magic Reservoir Hydroelectric, a subsidiary of the J.R. Simplot Co. However, Pendleton said the canal company is becoming frustrated that repairs have not started and because the company has to maintain the current water level and cannot yet start refilling the reservoir for the 2013 irrigation season.
    Pendleton said the canal company, which holds water rights for irrigation from reserves held in the reservoir, has lost more than $1 million so far from the drawdown. He said it continues to lose close to $100,000 a week by not being allowed to begin refilling.
    Pendleton said the company will only be able to recoup the money if there is sufficient snowfall this winter in the Big Wood River drainage to the north.
    “Our snowpack is the key here,” he said.
    The canal company was forced into the release of water by an order from Blaine County 5th District Judge Robert Elgee on Oct. 23. The judge’s order followed a lawsuit filed by Magic Reservoir Hydroelectric against the canal company in which it was seeking to have the reservoir lowered so that dry repairs could be made on the leaking hydraulic oil line.
    According to documents filed in the court case, Magic Reservoir Hydroelectric was facing fines from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency of up to $32,500 per day if the repairs were not made.
    Elgee has since been disqualified from the case in a motion filed by the canal company. It has been assigned to 5th District Judge Jonathan Brody, who normally presides in Minidoka County
    A hearing scheduled before Brody for Tuesday morning in Hailey was cancelled late Monday afternoon when attorneys for both parties jointly filed a stipulation stating that the parties are “involved in on-going negotiations in an attempt to resolve this matter.”
    After Elgee’s order, the canal company began releasing water into the Big Wood River below Magic Reservoir on Oct. 29. Initial small releases were down the Big Wood River channel about three miles and then into the Richfield Canal at a diversion dam.
    Pendleton said the canal company could not begin larger releases down the historic Big Wood River channel until Nov. 5 because of bridge replacement work that had been underway on state Highway 75 north of Shoshone.
    According to stream flow data from the U.S. Geological Survey, initial releases from the reservoir were measured downstream in the Big Wood River at about 300 cubic feet per second. Flows increased after Nov. 5 to highs of more than 1,100 cfs.
    Flows began to taper off after Nov. 13 and by early this week were down to about 90 cfs.

Terry Smith:

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