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Aquifer recharge doubles initial goals

Eastern Idaho Snake Plain Aquifer (ESPA) recharge is expected to hit 524,000 acre-feet of water by the end of the winter recharge season this month. That is double the annual recharge goal of 250,000 acre-feet.

Recharge program manager Wesley Hipke said the Idaho Water Resource Board had recharged approximately 520,000 acre-feet of water last week. He said surplus water from the Upper Snake reservoir system and additional recharge site capacity led to a successful season.

The average recharge flow throughout the season was 1,021 cubic-feet per second (CFS), compared to 641 cfs last year, a 59 percent increase.

The Water Resource Board voted to increase the budget to pay recharge partners up to a total of $4.7 million for the winter of 2017-18. Each canal company and irrigation district is paid on an acre-foot basis for assisting in the ESPA recharge.

The Board also approved a $17.8 million Fiscal Year 2019 Secondary Aquifer Planning budget. It includes $4.3 million for ESPA recharge operations and $6.9 million for ESPA recharge infrastructure projects.

The board is now considering a proposed $18 million, 25-mile pipeline that would move water from the Snake River to the Raft River area to improve water supplies for Raft River groundwater users and potentially recharge the Raft River aquifer. An environmental analysis will be prepared in the next year by the Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

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