Irrigation water cut off for some Idaho farmers

Published online: Jul 10, 2013
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KETCHUM, Idaho (AP)-Irrigation water to several hundred farmers in Lincoln County has been cut off because of low water in Magic Reservoir.

The Idaho Mountain Express reports that irrigation ended late last month for water users of the Big Wood Canal Co.

"It's exhausted," said Carl Pendleton, board chair of the Big Wood Canal Co. "It's disturbing, but it's Mother Nature."

The reservoir is at 2.5 percent of its capacity of 200,000 acre feet. Water from the Big Wood River is now being diverted upstream to water users in the Bellevue Triangle. Officials say the snowpack for the Big Wood River drainage was only about 68 percent of normal.

Pendleton said crop losses will likely be in the millions of dollars. Most farmers were anticipating a short water year and avoided crops that bring in more money but require more water such as potatoes, sugar beets and corn.

But he said some farmers who didn't plan appropriately could be put out of business.

Even farmers who planted less water-demanding grains will have lower yields. And alfalfa growers will likely get a low second cutting in July.

"Ten days more (of water) would have assured a good second cutting crop," Pendleton said.

Part of the problem, Pendleton said, is that the Big Wood Canal Co. had to drain 40,000 acre feet of water from the reservoir last fall to fix a leaking hydraulic fluid line at the power plant at the dam.

"If we'd had that 40,000 acre feet in there, we could have run to August," Pendleton said.

Pendleton said there have been other years where farmers have had to face a lack of water.

"This is not the first time we've been through this," he said. "It's about hoping your wife brings home enough from the other job."