Idaho Water Board approves $14.1 million loan for aquifer recharge project

(WO) – The Idaho Water Resource Board has approved a $14.1 million loan to the Raft River Recharge Group on Nov. 25 to help finance the construction of a pump station on the Snake River, a 13-mile pipeline and recharge basins to add water to a declining aquifer in an existing critical ground water management area.

Project representatives said the total cost of the Raft River Recharge project is $48.6 million. Approximately $28.2 million has been allocated by the Natural Resources Conservation Service for the project, and the recharge group is providing a $6.2 million cash match.

Project representatives also noted that the Raft River surface flows are intermittent because of dropping aquifer levels, and the aquifer itself is declining. Most farmers in the area now are pumping ground water for irrigation.

The board also approved a $1.2 million loan to the Northside Pumping Company near Twin Falls to upgrade several irrigation pump stations and increase irrigation efficiency. And the board approved adding $650,000 to an existing loan with the Blaine County Canal Company to cover higher pipeline costs and other infrastructure expenses, bringing the total approved loan amount to $1.8 million.

In other action, the Water Board approved several new construction projects that will add capacity to the board’s recharge program for the Eastern Snake Plain Aquifer. Two new injection wells were approved in the Southwest Idaho Irrigation District project area at a cost of $245,000, and two new recharge sites were approved in partnership with Enterprise Canal Company at a cost of $3.4 million. Both of those projects were funded with American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds that had been allocated to the board by the Idaho Legislature and Gov. Brad Little.

Wesley Hipke, ESPA recharge project manager for the board, said ESPA winter recharge operations are under way and approximately 30,000 acre-feet of water has been recharged into the aquifer so far in the Magic Valley area.

In a related matter, at the request of Idaho Power Company officials, the board agreed to bypass 200 cubic feet per second of water below Milner Dam from Dec. 1, 2022, to Feb. 15, 2023 to provide flows in the Middle Snake River for hydropower.

Idaho Power officials requested the change to provide more balance in Snake River winter flows between aquifer recharge and hydropower production.

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