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Pocatello Cancels Water Rights Deal

Pocatello’s City Council has voted unanimously to back out of a massive water rights deal. If the city doesn’t find new sources for water soon, it could leave locals high and dry.

The city had an agreement to buy $6.2 million worth of water rights from the Portneuf Marsh Valley Canal Company. If the deal had gone through, it would have meant 3,100 acre feet of water for the city.

Cities use a lot of water, and Pocatello needs to find more.

“It’s a huge issue. We hear that they’re not going to grant any more water right in some of the aquifers because we’re so low on the resources there,? Pocatello City Councilman Craig Cooper said.

The city would have gotten the water it needs from an agreement with a group of farmers and irrigators in the south of the county, but last night a unanimous City Council backed out.

One of the major reasons the deal fell through was that other water users down stream threatened to sue over water normally used for irrigation being consumed for city use.

“There was possibility of litigation, which we didn’t want to face, over it that could have been very, very costly,? Cooper said.

The PMVCC would have used money from the water rights sale, along with federal funds, towards a $24 million upgrade to the canal system.

The group said the project to line canals with cement and build a pipeline would have stopped seepage and evaporation, a win-win for everybody.

“The savings in water to the canal company would be somewhere in the range of 7,000 acre feet per year. They were selling 3100 acre feet to the city of Pocatello,? said PMVCC attorney Randy Budge said.

But now that project isn’t going to happen, and it still leaves Pocatello with the problem of finding water.

“We’re going to go out and look for other water rights. We’re not going to sit and watch things happen. We will actively be pursuing additional water rights, and so we’ll have to see what’s available and what we can get,? Cooper said.

The City Council said the money that would have been used for this deal could help pay for a new water department building, and some will be saved to pay for future water rights.

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