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Water management at the Island Park Reservoir

In his State of the State Address, Idaho Gov. Butch Otter proposed allocating $15 million to water management. That money would be divided between a number of projects statewide, with the possibility of $2.5 million for the Island Park Reservoir.

The project would expand the dam and allow for close to 30,000 acre feet more in storage water. However, the proposed funding would not go to actual construction, but rather to analyze the final plans for the dam based on the Henry’s Fork Basin Study.

“The money in the budget for the Idaho Water Resource Board is essentially to further that study, there is a lot more work that needs to be done to determine the specifics of that project,” said Brandon Hoffer, executive director of the Henry’s Fork Foundation.

“One of the water proposals being looked at is the utilization of existing flood control space in Island Park as active storage. That can be then used for a variety of water resource purposes,” said Jeff Raybould, chairman of the Fremont-Madison Irrigation District.

Those purposes include agricultural use, but Hoffner also pointed out environmental management.

“We would look for this proposal to still adhere to our drought management planning process … essentially the correct ecological flow in the river so that we can carry juvenile fish for year to year and recruit them into the population. We wouldn’t look for those things to change, but we would have the additional 26,700 acre feet of storage in Island Park Reservoir.”

Then there is the issue of water ownership.

“There would be water rights associated with this expanded storage proposal in Island Park Reservoir. Those water rights, to a degree, have been filed on by the Fremont-Madison Irrigation District. Additional rights for full amount of the increased storage would need to be applied for,” said Raybould.

There is still plenty up in the air surrounding this project, so there is not yet a set timeline for completion.

The governor’s proposed budget also includes spending $4 million to recharge the Eastern Snake River Aquifer.

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