Trout Farm Testimony Opens Water Hearings

The Fish Site
by The Fish Site
30 November 2007, at 12:00am

IDAHO - What is expected to be a long, grueling hearing to decide the fate of two Magic Valley trout farms and hundreds of irrigators began Wednesday with the testimony of one farm's president.

Larry Cope, president and CEO of Clear Springs Foods, testified his company has scaled back production because it's not receiving its full share of water under the law.

"The water - it's our lifeblood," Cope said. "We're just asking for our water to be delivered to us."

Trout farm officials have said publicly they're losing millions because groundwater pumpers with less-senior water rights are sucking water from the aquifer that belongs to Clear Springs and another trout operation, Blue Lakes Trout Farm.

The companies have asked the state to shut down–groundwater wells to free up more water for their aquaculture operations.

At stake is the valley's aquaculture industry, as well as hundreds of land farms that depend on pumped water for irrigation. Several Magic Valley towns that rely on wells are also at risk, though drinking water supplies are not threatened.

The case has a long and complicated history. The trout farms have older water rights that trump the pumpers' rights under Idaho's first-in-time water law. In 2005, the trout farmers asked the state to shut down some pumps because less spring water was available at the farms, both near Buhl.

The pumpers agreed to provide the trout farmers with water under a deal called a mitigation plan, which–allowed them to keep the pumps running. But recently, the pumpers haven't been able to find enough water for spring users.

Source: TimesNews