Elmore County and the future of water in Mountain Home

Posted at 4:45 PM, Nov 29, 2018

The Mountain Home community worries about their future because of a water shortage that they have been trying to figure out how to solve for a long time.

Mountain Home has turned away businesses who would need a lot of water to operate because must protect their water, the agriculture industry struggles in dry years and they also have the largest military base in Idaho.

Elmore County is a large county and the northern section has mountain peaks that feed the snowpack into Anderson Ranch Reservoir then into the South Fork of the Boise River which eventually ends up in Ada County.

Anderson Ranch Reservoir, Lucky Peak and Arrowrock when full provides more than one million feet per acre of water into the Treasure Valley.

"What we are asking for is 10,000 feet per acre of flood water that is above and beyond we don't want to touch any of the water that goes into the Treasure Valley that water was fully allocated back in 1977," said Bud Corbus an Elmore County Commissioner.

2017 was a good year in Mountain Home and farmer Eric Orr had enough water for his crops, there is still some water in the Mountain Home Reservoir, however, it can be a completely different story during dry years.

"There has been a lot of years where we have run out of water and that is a bad deal," said Orr. "I think the biggest misconception that the Treasure Valley thinks we want to take something from them."

Elmore County's plan would include pumping excess water from Anderson Ranch into Little Camas Reservoir which was full in 2017, it is almost dry now.

The project would run through private property, the county has an agreement with the landowner and the cost is estimated at around $30 million.

"We don't have any options, we don't have anywhere to get water from," said Corbus. "Ultimately it comes down to the fact that if we don't plan today for the future, we won't have a future."

The water application is currently in a legal battle there has already been a full week of hearings, the next hearing will be December 7th and also on December 12th.

"Because this is an interbasin transfer of water the Idaho Department of Resources has to consider if there is any negative economic impact to the basin of origin," said Marie Callaway Kellner of the Idaho Conservation League.

The basin of origin would be the Boise River and this case could come down to whether or not taking the flood water will have a negative impact on fishing, boating and recreating in both the South Fork of the Boise River and the Boise River that runs through town.

"You don't normally see this in a water right proceeding but both the City of Boise and Elmore County will have economic experts that will talk about the potential economic impact," said Kellner.

Elmore County wants a drop in the bucket that they can use to help recharge their reservoirs and they think it would help alleviate flooding that the Boise River experienced in 2017, but more than anything they will take whatever they can get to ensure the future of the Mountain Home community.

"We are just asking for a little bit of help here," said Corbus.