Idaho Irrigators Given Monies For Water Purchases

Published online: Apr 12, 2005
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Idaho irrigators on the Snake River system are hopeful that money given by the state legislature to rent water rights will be enough to save them from shutting off wells for the season.

The state legislature gave irrigators more than $7.2 million in liquor dispensary fund money that normally would go to cities and counties. In addition, $3 million from that account and $21 million from the state's cigarette tax will be used to purchase water rights. The remaining $4 million will be put in a revolving loan fund for future water purchases.

The Water Resource Board will be able to sell bonds to buy water rights. Another bill will compel water users to join groundwater districts. The idea is that everyone who benefits from mitigation should contribute to its costs.

The bill also would allow groundwater districts to go into debt for 30 years. The limit now is 10 years.

Another bill gave the Water Resources Department $1.2 million to study the aquifer. The money will come from water districts statewide.

Gov. Dirk Kempthorne said the legislature provided water users the tools they needed to find a permanent solution to the water shortage problem. All three bills were hotly contested in the legislature, basically putting rural representatives against those from urban areas.

The teetor-totter finally fell on the side of irrigators when studies pointed out that if pumps were shut off and no crops could be grown, it would diminish tax funds for all taxing districts and result in financial ruin for not only growers but rural business owners. It would also have caused a great drop in state income taxes needed to run state government and meet educational needs.

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