Water

Idaho Rivers United

The head of Idaho Rivers United (IRU) is stepping down. Bill Sedivy says after 16 years as executive director of the organization, he wants to spend more time on the rivers and less time in the office.

The non-profit Idaho Rivers United is celebrating 25 years as an advocacy group in the state. It works to protect Idaho’s rivers and fish, and has more than 3,400 members.

Sedivy says it was a love of river rafting that got him involved in protecting rivers in the first place.

ironpoison / Flickr

Farmers and ranchers in the West's worst-hit drought regions will receive an additional $21 million to help them save water and soil despite the long dry spell.

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced the aid Monday. The assistance will go to areas of the West that are rated in the highest categories of drought. That includes parts of California, Kansas, Idaho, Nevada, Oklahoma, Oregon, Texas and Utah.

The aid is meant to help farms and grazing pastures cope with drought through better irrigation, cover crops and other measures.

Boise River
Frankie Barnhill / Boise State Public Radio

The public will have the chance to talk with elected officials about a power outage that caused the Boise River to dry up earlier this year. The Ada County Commission is holding a meeting on May 27 to discuss the accidental dewatering.

The Roza Irrigation District in Eastern Washington’s Yakima Valley is shutting off the water for two weeks because of drought. About a billion dollars in crops are on the line.

Idaho water managers say they are conducting negotiations to prevent mass water shutoffs from Jerome to Idaho Falls even though a final deal could result in long-term farming changes for southern Idaho irrigators.

The Capital Press reports that groundwater irrigators have fallen short in providing enough water to two canal companies.

The canal companies are owed nearly 89,000 acre-feet of water because they own senior water rights. Senior water rights take priority in Idaho.

A drive across the Northwest quickly reveals things look really dry everywhere.

From Wenatchee, Washington, to Bend, Oregon, whitewater rafting guides are preparing for a flood of business as school lets out. But this year’s low snowpack could mean less whitewater and more demand for trips.

Thomas Hawk / Flickr Creative Commons

Fremont County is the most recent addition of Idaho communities to receive a drought emergency declaration from the state. Blaine, Lincoln, Butte and Custer counties were given the designation on April 10, the earliest time for a state-approved drought declaration in the last five years.

Washington Governor Jay Inslee Friday significantly expanded a drought declaration due to dwindling snowpack.

Frankie Barnhill / Boise State Public Radio

The U.S. Agriculture Department has declared two northeast Nevada counties natural disaster areas due to the lingering drought with an emergency order that also makes emergency low-interest loans available to farmers, ranchers and businesses in parts of neighboring Idaho and Utah.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on Tuesday declared Nevada's Elko and Eureka counties primary natural disaster areas. The disaster assistance that becomes available there also applies to contiguous counties in Utah — Box Elder and Tooele — and in Idaho's Cassia, Owyhee and Twin Falls counties.

Across the Northwest, farmers are already making tough calls because of this year’s drought. The dismal snowpack is to blame.

Laura Gilmore / Flickr Creative Commons

Farmers in the Owyhee Basin are bracing for a very difficult summer season because this is the second year of an extreme drought.

The largely agricultural area along the border of Idaho and Oregon gets water from the Owyhee Reservoir, which is at just 27 percent of normal capacity. A dry and warm winter made replenishing the water supply difficult.

California Governor Jerry Brown ordered statewide mandatory water saving measures Wednesday. Water managers are preparing for drought in Oregon and Washington state as well.

Scott Graf / Boise State Public Radio

Federal agencies will release more water to flow on the Boise River Friday.

The Bureau of Reclamation and the Army Corps of Engineers will increase flow from 240 cubic feet per second (cfs) to 750 cfs through the city of Boise.

National Weather Service Boise

So far, February is turning out to be an unusually warm month in southern Idaho. According to the National Weather Service (NWS), temperatures for the first two weeks of the month have been 10 degrees above normal and have included two record-breaking high temperatures.

NWS Boise hydrologist Troy Lindquist says a wet and cooler spring would help the situation, and an early mountain snowmelt makes this year's water picture less sustainable.

Dennis Amith / Flickr Creative Commons

Idaho City residents have been told they need to boil their water before drinking it. The order went into effect Sunday after high levels of sediment was found coming out of the town's water treatment plant. 

Idaho City's drinking water comes from Elk Creek, which has been running with more soil and debris than normal from the recent rains. Mayor Jim Obland says the boil advisory is an inconvenience but a necessary precaution.

waterarchives.org / Flickr Creative Commons

It's still not clear what caused last week's malfunction at the Barber Dam in Boise. As we reported last week, the Boise River backed up behind the dam after an apparent power outage shut down the plant late Tuesday night. The river dropped well-below normal flows for almost eight hours before the dam's operators got it back up and running.

Frankie Barnhill / Boise State Public Radio

Idaho Fish and Game biologists are looking closely at the shallow areas of the Boise River right below Barber Dam. They're trying to determine how many trout hatchlings may have died when the river's flow dropped dramatically earlier this week.

Suzba / Flickr Creative Commons

After a power plant's alert system failed causing Wednesday's dramatic drop in the Boise River flow, Idaho Fish and Game biologists are concerned about potential impacts to wildlife. The river went from flowing at 290 cubic feet per second (cfs) to 81 cfs in a matter of hours.

Barber Dam's power was restored early Wednesday morning, constricting the flow of water for nearly eight hours.

Frankie Barnhill / Boise State Public Radio

This story was updated at 4:55 p.m.

You might have noticed the Boise River was lower than normal Wednesday morning. At midnight, the gauge at Boise's Glenwood Bridge showed the river was flowing at 290 cubic feet per second (cfs). At 10:45 a.m., the river had dropped to just 81 cfs. 

Ryan Hedrick is a hydrologist at the Bureau of Reclamation, the agency that controls the flow of water to the river at Lucky Peak. He says the significant drop this morning was due to a problem at a Boise hydroelectric plant in the middle of the night.

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