Gov. Butch Otter didn’t include any money in the budget this year for studies of potential new water storage projects but the Idaho Legislature is preparing to throw its weight behind the idea.
The House Resources and Conservation Committee received Idaho Department of Water Resources director David Tuthill warmly last week as it agreed to print a joint memorial supporting his call for studies of dam projects to increase water storage. Joint Memorial 8 tells federal officials, Congress and frankly anyone who will listen that Idaho supports studies of any dam that might increase the amount of water stored in the state.
It specifically talks about rebuilding Teton Dam and the Twin Springs project, which would dam the Middle Fork of the Boise River to give our drainage another reservoir. Galloway Dam, long a proposed dam on the Weiser River will look a lot better later this spring as the large snowpack threatens another flood there.
Tuthill knows some of these projects are controversial and would be nearly impossible to attract funding. But talking about the need, he says, is starting discussions and bringing new ideas to the table.
For instance, the Teton Dam, which failed in 1976 soon after it was built, would be hard to rebuild in the Teton Canyon. But already he has received an alternative to build several lakes above the canyon that not only would provide storage but also might be attractive for developers.
Agricultural users in the Boise River Valley have long advocated Twin Springs Dam to provide future water supplies here. They hope recreation and residential users would see the value in having more water for future development and perhaps stream flows. Then the farmers could keep what they’re using not just for farming but to lease to others so they can lower their costs for water even more.
But residential and industrial users will be able to get the water they need in the future by drying up farmland just as is done in state from Colorado to California on the Colorado River. Tuthill and other state officials know this is controversial, polarizing and as popular to farmers as drying up the Boise River in the winter is to fishermen.
If Twin Springs is to become a serious proposal, its unlikely more storage will be the driving force. The greater need for an additional dam in the Boise River drainage would be for flood control.
The reality is that when the 100 year flood comes to the Boise River, the flooding around Eagle last year will seem like a minor soaking. Millions of dollars of damage to riverside homes and even property far from the river will someday force Treasure Valley residents to recognize the costs of the thousands of decisions made to build in the floodplain here over the last 40 years.
If the snow keeps falling and we get a hot week in April, May or June it could happen this year.