by A.F. Mayor Marc Beitia
“What did you plan to gain from this meeting?” the gal from the TV station asked me. Apparently my response, although well considered on my part, did not warrant a 15 second sound bite that followed in last Tuesday evening’s newscast.
I don’t remember my words exactly, but my meaning was, “I wanted the parties involved to have a civil, thoughtful, and constructive conversation.” I did not pit one party or set of needs against another, I did not point fingers and allocate blame. What I said was totally un-newsworthy apparently. Patty, I didn’t even pump sunshine.
I thought it was a very worthwhile and productive meeting. Too often, in this day and age of “instant gratification,” folks lose sight of the fact that some things do indeed take time to mediate. When at least three governmental agencies and some closely held private rights and beliefs are in the mix it could take years or scores of years. But, just because the path is long and difficult does not in my mind mean that what has been started should not be finished; especially in light of the fact that the conversations over the recent years have been productive. Headway has indeed been made, however small it may seem to some.
This meeting was the result of a conversation that former Mayor Amy Manning and I began with the Idaho Fish and Game over eight years ago. The original conversation resulted in the Snake River below American Falls Reservoir being opened to year-round fishing. The conversation about water levels in the river and reservoir I know have been a topic of a much heated debate for a lot longer than eight years.
In 2007 an agreement was entered into between the Bureau of Reclamation (BOR) and the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) that basically stipulates that the BOR on a voluntary basis will try to minimize “nonpoint source pollution” in the reservoir and river below by maintaining water levels in the reservoir above 50,000 Acre Feet (AF) if they can do so without jeopardizing water rights. The “nonpoint source pollution” in both the reservoir and river is caused by siltation and sedimentation when water levels get below a certain level.
Had this conversation not begun over six years ago between the BOR and DEQ and the voluntary agreement entered into in 2007, Roland Springer, head of the Upper Snake River Field Office for the BOR, stated in the meeting on December 10 that reservoir levels at American Falls would have most likely been drawn down to nothing rather than the 51,000+ AF that remained at the end of this irrigation season. 51,000 AF may not seem like much in a reservoir that holds almost 1.7 million, but it is better than nothing.
Is 51,000 AF enough to solve the sedimentation, siltation and fish kill issues experienced this year? DEQ and Idaho Fish and Game data indicates that maintained levels of above 60,000 AF would help stabilize the ecosystem. In low water years, like this and last, levels below the preferred are a source of concern. Neither the DEQ, the Fish and Game, nor I are asking that any water rights be infringed upon, ever! We are seeking only to have the conversation, to see if flexibility exists in the entire Upper Snake River reservoir system that may allow for more habitat friendly water levels in American Falls Reservoir at the end of the irrigation season.
I would like to thank the irrigators and BOR for continuing in the conversation; your consideration and thoughtfulness is not unrecognized.
Christmas lighting recognition
The water levels are dependent on snow. Thank goodness we have some. It may indeed be a white Christmas. I hope so. In my opinion we can’t get enough of the white stuff. With things all cheery and white outside, my Christmas committee (my daughters, granddaughters, son-in-law and wife) roamed the streets of our town as lights twinkled and snowflakes glistened last night to determine which residences have had Santa’s elves well at work spreading the cheer and spirit of the season. I hope the joy of the season manifests itself in each of you. In our travels throughout town we found so many homes spreading the spirit and joys this time of year brings to many of us. The committee’s search for cheer and joy is chronicled in the list below (it was check twice):
The top three: 213 Tyler, 1824 Falls, and 216 Adams (Leila’s favorite). Honorable mentions: 580 Taylor, 425 Hayes, 672 Hillcrest, 315 McKinley, and 2218 Falls. I would like to thank the folks who live at 255 Tyhee for their year round pride and spirit. They were a committee top pick for their yard this summer as well. The most festive streets in town are perhaps Falls and Monroe. Thanks to all the home owners along their length.
With over a hundred candidates to select from those that were also considered for recognition include the following and certainly warrant your time to view their efforts: 538 Park, 825 Fillmore, 930 Falls, 240 West Park, 335 Grant, 704 Hutchinson, 793 Falls, 667 Bennett, 330 Jackson, 260 Monroe, 375 Autumn Way, 717 Fort Hall, 719 Stevens, the last house on the left at the end of Idanha past Falls Irrigation, 155 Johnson between Johnson and Lincoln down the alley (the backyard, you may want to walk this one – the trip down the snowy alley leaving our viewing was exciting!)
Until next week … Merry Christmas one and all…