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Friday — March 19, 2004


Committee eyes
county water quality

Legislation to be drafted
for county commission

Express Staff Writer

A new committee was formed this week to compose Blaine County water quality legislation that could help ensure that the county’s water stays in good shape.

Blaine County Commissioner Sarah Michael, who chaired the committee meeting on Tuesday, March 16, said the initial meeting was "very productive, with a good exchange of ideas." The meeting attracted 11 initial participants.

Anglers like Devan Gernet of Austin, Texas, are among the Wood River Valley’s beneficiaries of the region’s relatively clean water. Legislation being drafted by a citizen committee this spring could help ensure continued water quality for municipal, well and river water users. Express photo by David N. Seelig

The so-called Blaine County Citizens Drinking Water Committee is designed to gain input from local residents about a recently completed Drinking Water Protection Plan. The pal completed in February following a three-year effort.

"In Blaine County, our drinking water is excellent," Michael said, but she added that it is time to develop a plan to ensure continued quality. "Get it good, keep it good," she said.

Michael added that she plans two or three additional meetings before introducing draft legislation to her fellow county commissioners. The committee’s next meeting will be 6 p.m. Tuesday, April 6 at the Blaine County Courthouse.

Participants at this week’s meeting generally agreed that Blaine County’s current water quality protections are not strong enough. The current plan includes voluntary actions and regulatory approaches, Michael said.

"But there is nothing in the plan that really changes existing practices so that Blaine County’s water receives the highest level of protection," Michael said.

One of the areas highlighted Tuesday was that better controls are needed to prevent the contamination of drinking water with irrigation water.

Drinking water well drilling requirements could also be strengthened, participants generally agreed.

"There is a large potential for aquifer cross-contamination if drinking water wells are not encased to 50 feet or more," Michael said. "A simple and cost-effective solution would be for Blaine County to request that the Idaho Department of Water Resources designates Blaine County as an "area of drilling concern."

Once such and area is designated, all new wells would be installed to higher standards that reduce the potential for cross contamination.

The group also agreed that much more needs to be done to get local residents involved in drinking water protection efforts.

"The goal is that by May, that there be a recommendation and a plan to be adopted by October 1, 2004," Michael said.


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