Otter unveiled a series of water conservation projects for the state, including several that address using water more efficiently in southern Idaho.
"These projects will not solve the conflict between groundwater and surface water users, but they will help make water use and conservation efforts more effective," Otter said in a written release. "I hope they also will encourage others to develop and recommend similar projects for consideration as we continue seeking long-term solutions to our water challenges."
The centerpiece of the plan calls for the replacement of 8 miles of open canal with 8,800 feet of pipeline at the Black Canyon Dam near Emmett. The move would help cut down on seepage and loss from evaporation. Funding for the project includes $300,000 from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, $100,000 from the state and $50,000 from the Black Canyon Irrigation District.
Groundwater users in the eastern Snake River Plain Aquifer, an area of frequent contention, would be offered the option of turning off their wells and allowing their fields to go fallow in return for money from the state. The money-for-no-water project would last three years, and would include up to 20,000 acres, depending on funding from the Legislature.
Three of the other projects would take water used for irrigation and fish habitat in the Magic Valley, and pump it back into springs so it can be reused. A similar recycling plan will be put into use at Niagara Springs in the Rim View Hatchery.
Also, the Crystal Spring Hatchery would begin using water being spilled from the Magic Valley Hatchery when the steelhead hatchery cannot use all of the water allotted to it.