Idaho dairymen to strike deal for water access

UNITED STATES - On the brink of a state Supreme Court water rights case that could reshape the state's economy, Idaho dairy farmers are working on a deal of their own to make sure they'll still get water access, regardless of the decision.
calendar icon 13 December 2006
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The Idaho Dairymen's Association - composed mostly of junior water rights holders - is in the final stages of negotiations with the state's organization of senior rights holders to either buy off the senior rights or lease the water they need to keep at least half the state's dairy farms operating if supplies run low.

Organization officials hope the independent deal will insulate the dairy industry from the potential fallout of the Supreme Court decision, expected to come in the next few months. The court will hear arguments Friday appealing a 5th District Court decision that banned groundwater users - those with less senior water rights - from pumping underground water.

Farmers and officials in Eastern Idaho have said that if the ban is upheld, 55,000 acres of farmland could go dry, and the region's economy could be destroyed.

"We've been working with the Surface Water Coalition for over a year now," said Bob Naerebout, executive director of the dairymen's association. "Now we're really close to finalizing the deal."

Food industry representatives throughout the region have been working on similar agreements with senior water rights holders to cope with the potential ban, said state Sen. Chuck Coiner, R-Twin Falls, a board member of the Twin Falls Canal Co., one of the senior, surface-rights holders that filed the initial suit that the district court ruled on.

Source: Capital Press
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