The Washington Department of Ecology is overseeing a number of waterways around the state running at or above full capacity – but some are running low. These primarily are in areas just east of the Cascades, in the northern part of the state.
The department is ordering water cutbacks for 79 irrigators near the Okanogan and Similkameen rivers, but who have relatively junior water rights. A number of Methow River irrigators, perhaps 56, were expected to be impacted soon as well. [see the Wenatchee World, May 19]
When the Teton Cooperative Reservoir Co., which serves the Bynum area in Montana near Choteau, called for water from the Upper Teton River to be diverted to its canals, it may not have anticipated much problem: The water was there, flowing past. The company didn’t think any senior water right holders would be injured by the diversion.
But Judge Laurie McKinnon said more of the water in the river was needed for aquifer recharge and increased flow in the Spring Creek, which was servicing a senior water user.
That led Teton to file suit, against Upper Teton River Water Commissioner Leonard Blixrud of Choteau, who specifically followed the judge’s instructions.
McKinnon said at a May 60 hearing she would give each side two months to prepare their cases.
Tuesday’s general elections carried few issues directly effecting water rights, but Yuma County, Colorado had one voters passed enthusiastically.
The alternative might have involved shutdown of about 1,300 wells in the area.
Senior water right holders at the Republican River, encountering lower water levels, threatened to call their rights in court, which might have resulted in massive shutdowns. At that point, attorneys began a series of meetings resulting in a deal for sale of those senior rights to the public for about $20 million. Completion of the deal was reliant on voter approval.
The voters did approve, by about 4-1. [see Denver Rocky Mountain News, November 6]
Idaho Department of Water Resources Director David Tuthill on October 10 turned back a request that he reconsider departmental action on a major water call aimed at users of ground water.
The original department decision came September 5. The first step in challenging it was an internal administrative appeal; with that done, the next step would be through court action, probably in the Snake River Basin Adjudication.
The action grows out of complaints by the Surface Water Coalition, a group of water user organizations including major canal companies in the Magic Valley, that the department had not been doing enough to ensure that they – as senior water right holders – were getting the water to which they were entitled.
Court filings are expected through November 7.
A variety of parties have become involved in the case, including the federal Bureau of Reclamation, which argued that aspects of the water management and decisions have been inconsistent.
The Idaho Dairymen’s Association and the city of Pocatello have come involved as well. (Tuthill dismissed as untimely one key Pocatello effort.)
In an October 11 article, the Twin Falls Times News said “The coalition is questioning whether Tuthill addressed the delivery call in “timely and lawful” fashion and whether he followed constitutional guidelines regarding the state’s conjunctive management rules, according to a statement of issues. The group also wants a judge to review his use of replacement water plans and approach to calculating carryover water, among other items.”
Drought conditions in western South Dakota have forced the state Department of Environment and Natural Resources to issue shutoff orders to 50 junior water right holders along the Cheyenne River and tributaries upstream of Angostura Reservoir and to two junior water right holders on the Belle Fourche River upstream of the Belle Fourche Reservoir diversion dam. Belle Fourche Reservoir is at 54.3 percent of storage capacity and 11.5 feet below full. Angostura Reservoir is at 46.1 percent of storage capacity and more than 18.4 feet below full.
The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation holds senior water rights for both the Belle Fourche Reservoir, bearing a 1904 priority date, and Angostura Reservoir, having a 1941 priority date. Those water rights provide for an annual fill of each of the reservoirs for supplying irrigation water to the Belle Fourche Irrigation District and the Angostura Irrigation District.
South Dakota water law is based on the prior appropriation doctrine, which means the most senior water rights on a particular stream have priority based upon date to available water supplies over the junior priority date water rights. State water law authorizes DENR and the Water Management Board to issue water right permits to people who want to put water to beneficial use, such as irrigation, municipal water supply, or commercial use. Although the junior priority water right holders are subject to shutoff orders, state water right law gives domestic use of water from rivers and streams the highest priority. Domestic use includes livestock watering and is not subject to shutoff orders.
Contact:?Garland Erbele?(605) 773-3352 Source: South Dakota Department of Environment and Natural Resources Friday March
Former Idaho Supreme Court Chief Justice Schroeder today issued a recommended order as a result of the hearing in the Thousand Springs area water call.
Schroeder, acting as independent hearing officer, presided over the hearing conducted November 28 through December 13 at Idaho Department of Water Resources headquarters in Boise.
The hearing was conducted to resolve disputes between ground water users and two aquaculture businesses that hold senior water rights located in the Thousand Springs area near Hagerman. These businesses use water flowing from the springs to raise trout for sale.
The disputes involved objections to orders issued by former IDWR Director Karl Dreher in 2005 in response to water delivery calls made by senior water right holders Blue Lakes Trout Farm and Clear Springs Foods’ Snake River Farm.
A water delivery call is made when the holder of a senior water right experiences a shortfall in the water they are beneficially using and are entitled to receive. The department then issues an order requiring the holders of junior water rights either to mitigate the effects of their diversions or stop diverting water in order to satisfy the senior right.
The provisions of Schroeder’s recommended order will not become effective until the IDWR Director David Tuthill issues a final order in the matter expected sometime late this winter.
With the release of the recommended order, each party who appeared at the hearing now may file a petition for reconsideration, briefs and exceptions to the recommended order, and may request oral argument before the IDWR director.
Former Justice Schroeder also will act as independent hearing officer in the hearing for the Surface Water Coalition water call, which is scheduled to begin Wednesday, January 16. The hearing will be conducted at IDWR headquarters on the sixth floor in conference rooms C & D.
Idaho Department of Water Resources Friday January 11
Reservoir operators and water users on the Colorado River have arranged to keep river flows at sufficient levels through the rest of the summer to protect endangered fish in the Grand Valley and sustain the rafting industry in Grand, Eagle and Garfield counties.
This cooperative effort by East Slope and West Slope interests is a directed regional solution that puts water in the river that ordinarily would be called downstream by the now-damaged Shoshone Hydroelectric Plant in Glenwood Canyon.
Normally, by calling water downstream to produce electricity at the Xcel Energy-owned Shoshone plant, water is also made available to other water users and recreational and environmental uses through its senior, non-consumptive water rights. The senior 1905 water right of 1,250 cubic feet per second (cfs) drives river administration, drawing reservoir releases as river flows naturally decline after the snowmelt. Water is kept in the river when junior rights holders have to replace diverted water with stored water.
But a penstock at the turn-of-the-last-century plant burst on June 20, 2007, causing significant damage and knocking the plant off line. Xcel has said it will make the necessary repairs. However without a functioning plant, Xcel cannot call for the water that people have come to expect in the river.
This fact has drawn the concern of Grand Valley irrigators represented by the Grand Valley Water Users Association, the Grand Valley Irrigation Company, the Orchard Mesa Irrigation District, the Palisade Irrigation District, and the Mesa County Irrigation District, as well as by Denver Water, the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District, the Bureau of Reclamation, Colorado Springs Utilities, the Colorado Division of Water Resources and the Colorado River District.
The entities agreed to target flow rates of 1,200 cfs in Glenwood Canyon through Labor Day and 810 cfs in the 15-Mile Endangered Fish Critical Reach in the Grand Valley through October.
Administering these targets will protect endangered fish as a first priority through the irrigation season while providing the side benefit of recreational flows at least through Labor Day.
Water will be provided from Green Mountain Reservoir and Granby Reservoir, Wolford Mountain Reservoir (Colorado River District), and Williams Fork Reservoir. Water will be released at the direction of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Bureau of Reclamation. The irrigation entities agreed to participate in the management of their entitlements in Green Mountain Reservoir so that the senior irrigation demands and fish flows can be met throughout the season.
Additional consideration is being given to maintain flows for trout fisheries in the Upper Colorado River in Grand County in late August and early September.
Jim Pokrandt, ?Communications and Education; Colorado River District?(970) 945-8522 x 236?Cell: (970) email@example.com Colorado River District August 8