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Copyright © 2002 Express Publishing Inc.
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For the week of February 20 - 26, 2002


Irrigation project study starts Feb. 28

Scoping meeting at Carey School

Express Staff Writer

The Little Wood River Irrigation District is looking for trouble, and it is looking for it now, not later.

The irrigation districtís directors have set Feb. 28 as the day they will begin the scoping phase of the National Environmental Policy Act process for a proposed change from an open to a closed irrigation system.

The meeting at 7 p.m. at the Carey School is intended to give citizens and groups the opportunity to bring up their concerns about changing the way water makes its way from the Little Wood Reservoir to 12,000 acres of farmland and the city of Carey.

Specifically, those concerns will be directed to the projectís leader, Kevin Davidson, of the National Resource Conservation Service.

It was through the NRCS that the district received $500,000 from Agriculture Appropriations Bill H.R. 02330 passed on Nov. 15, 2001.

District water master Bob Simpson, in a February 2002 update of the project, said the project will address water conservation, the delisting of the Little Wood River as a 303 (d) listed stream and public safety.

Simpson estimates the closed pipe irrigation system would save 30 percent of the districtís water a year, or about 15,000 to 20,000 acre feet of water.

The river is currently listed as a 303 (d) stream for sediment and nutrients by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Clean Water Act.

By using a closed pipe system, agricultural herbicides and pesticides would not get into the river. The closed system, hooked to a sprinkler system, would also mean less soil loss from surface irrigation.

The closed system would also do away with open canals and ditches, a safety hazard for children.

Davidson said the scoping meeting is to get to all the questions people will have about the project.

"We want all those who have concerns at the meeting, so there are no surprises down the road," he said.

The irrigation district and the NRCS are looking for a 2004 start date for construction, but starting in 2004 depends on how the NEPA process goes.

Davidson and the district directors are already anticipating some of the concerns.

One of these is the white-faced ibis, a wading bird related to herons but distinguished by a long slender downwardly curved bill.

The Little Wood River is a probable nesting area for the bird, which is classified as a "species of concern." This means it is a species either low in numbers, limited in distribution, or having suffered significant habitat losses.

An endangered species is one in danger of extinction.

Another anticipated concern are the cottonwoods that would have to come down in building the pipeline.

And there is concern for the affected farmers. Service from the irrigation district will be interrupted by converting the Little Wood system from open to closed.

Building the closed system is estimated to cost about $20 million.

The Little Wood Reservoir was built as a Works Progress Administration project in 1941. In 1984, a hydroelectric generation plant was added to the reservoir dam.


The Idaho Mountain Express is distributed free to residents and guests throughout the Sun Valley, Idaho resort area community. Subscribers to the Idaho Mountain Express will read these stories and others in this week's issue.