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Late last year, the department convened a hearing on it, after the city of Boise, the Idaho Conservation League and a coalition of irrigators in the Boise Basin contested the claim.
The objections range from environmental concerns to economic ones.
” She mentioned a tough question that she’d asked Nancy Brletic, the president of the Mountain Home Chamber of Commerce, during the hearing: Should the city consider purchasing older water rights from farmers to free up water for new businesses, like the CS Beef Packers facility?
No, Brletic said: That would amount to picking winners and losers, and she couldn’t do that.
It may deny the water right, or grant it, or issue it with conditions, such as requiring occasional high flows during flooding to keep sediment from clogging the gravel where fish spawn.
That might represent a workable compromise for Elmore County and the Boise River Basin.
“But in the end, there’s scarcity.” That means that eventually, the water will go to the highest bidder, Maas said, unless society decides to make an ethical argument to protect, for example, the fish that live in the South Fork of the Boise.
In other words, issuing a new water right may not be the best way to solve a problem caused by issuing too many water rights.Allowing Elmore County to divert water from the Boise River to replenish Mountain Home’s aquifer could also jeopardize the health of the South Fork of the Boise River and the fish that live there, the Idaho Conservation League argues.That would be counter to the public interest — another reason the department can deny a water right application.In Elmore County, officials have applied to draw up to 20,000 acre-feet of water from the South Fork of the Boise River each year; for comparison, that’s enough water to supply about 40,000 households, though it wouldn’t go directly to municipal use.Instead, the county plans to pump it into a neighboring basin and let it seep down to recharge Mountain Home’s aquifer.