September 30, 2010 – Capital Press – Federal Funds aid Idaho, Oregon water studies

This article was published on: 10/6/10 12:00 AM

Federal funds aid Idaho, Oregon water studies

Updated: Thursday, September 30, 2010 10:14 AM


Capital Press

The Bureau of Reclamation recently approved $600,000 in federal funding for water supply studies in Idaho and Oregon.

The Idaho Water Resource Board will use $400,000 in federal funds, coupled with $400,000 in matching local funds, to study the feasibility of water storage projects on the Henrys Fork of the Snake River.

The Deschutes Water Alliance will use $200,000 in federal funding, matched with $205,000 in local funds, to look at updating water supply and demand studies in Oregon’s Deschutes Basin.

Idaho will use its share of the funding to study potential storage projects in the Teton River, Fall River and North Fork watersheds.

“We need additional storage. We don’t want to waste water to the Columbia (River),” said Jerry Rigby, a member and past chairman of the Idaho Water Resource Board.

The primary objective would be to store additional water for irrigation. A secondary objective would be flood control, Rigby said.

“The Teton River is the only major tributary in the Snake River system that doesn’t have a dam to ease the flood issue,” he said.

Rebuilding Teton Dam probably isn’t feasible, but the state needs to look at all other water storage possibilities in the region, Rigby said.

The water board hopes to identify potential reservoir sites where water could be diverted from tributaries and used during plentiful water years. Any new storage would have a low water right priority and probably couldn’t be used during tight water years.

There has been talk for years about possibly rebuilding Teton Dam near Driggs. The structure collapsed in 1976 when the reservoir behind it was being filled for the first time.

But rebuilding the dam in the same location would pose a safety risk, Rigby said. As far as the water board is concerned, “it’s off the table,” he said.

A new dam in the old location could not be built as high as the original structure and therefore, “would store substantially less water,” he said.

The Bureau of Reclamation funding is being provided through its WaterSMART (Sustain and Manage America’s Resources for Tomorrow) basin study program.

The Oregon and Idaho awards are part of $3.3 million made available for six basin studies in fiscal year 2010.