Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Big Wood ‘water grab’ must be stopped

    “Protests Filed against aquifer recharge plan” in the April 26 edition outlines a “recharge” plan by Dave Tuthill’s company—and by association, the board of the Hiawatha Canal—that is really nothing more than an outrageous water grab to enrich a few. It also represents a direct attack on the public trust doctrine, and must not be allowed to stand.
    I know Dave Tuthill from his tenure as IDWR director, and found him to be constructive during the Wood River Legacy Project negotiations. He saw the need to support minimum in-stream flows, and the right of people to leave their water in the river for fish, wildlife and aquifer recharge. He has moved from that position to believing any water left in a river for fish, wildlife and the people of the state is a profit waiting to be made. He uses the bugaboo of conjunctive management, anticipating “hundreds” of wells in the Wood River Valley having to be shut down to provide water to downstream irrigators, pretending that this plan will solve that problem.
    It won’t. Water has been and continues to be misappropriated in the valley, to the detriment of downstream water-right holders, and the fish and wildlife of the Big Wood Basin. In times of drought, many of those wells should be shut down—that is exactly how Idaho water law works. Minimum in-stream flows in the Big Wood are already regularly ignored, something this project would do away with entirely. This plan would privatize the most important of public resources, and leave public trust in the dust that remains.
    Water left in a river is not wasted; it is what fish swim in, what wildlife drinks from, what citizens recreate in. Indeed, it is the most perfect aquifer recharge device imaginable. This is not a political issue—anyone who cares about water in Idaho’s rivers, and who believes the water in the state belongs to the people, must act. If the protests fail, legal action will be pursued. If legal action fails, legislation to stop it must be initiated.
    The Hiawatha Canal is not the Big Wood River—this project must be stopped.
Rich McIntyre

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