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Department of Water Resources requests funding for staff, projects at JFAC budget hearing

Posted at 5:45 AM, Jan 20, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-20 08:38:44-05

BOISE, Idaho — In a budget hearing Tuesday, the Department of Water Resources asked the Joint Finance Appropriations Committee for funding for additional staff and several projects.

The Department of Water Resources is in charge of water allocation and compliance.

Their presentation to JFAC Tuesday highlighted two issues that are being brought up a lot: growth and staffing shortages.

One committee member asked the director how he thought growth would impact the department.

"Water is a scarce resource, and that as we have more people there will be more and more attention on the resource and more and more demands. And my personal opinion is that it will be exponential," Gary Spackman, the director of the Department of Water Resources said.

He also said the state's unprecedented growth is increasing the amount of work for the department. So much so, that the work will soon be more than the current number of employees can handle.

Staffing shortages are a topic many state agencies have brought up in their presentations to JFAC. Most of them just can't find enough people to fill current openings. The Department of Water Resources is facing staffing shortages for a different reason.

Spackman said during the Great Recession in 2009 the department went through a reorganization, moving from two administrators and six bureau chiefs to one deputy director and three bureau chiefs.

He said now, one bureau chief is responsible for nearly half of the department's lower-level employees.

"I think the department from my perspective has kept up with some of the work, but we're turning a corner where some of our core responsibilities are now not being addressed," Spackman said.

To ensure employees can keep up with all of the department's responsibilities, it's asking JFAC to fund additional staff as well as several projects.

The Governor's budget outlined more money for the Department, including $250 Million American Rescue Plan Act funds available over the next four years.

"The Governor's proposed budget recognizes these additional demands and seeks enhancements for staffing, for completion of department and water board activities," Spackman said.

It also includes a one-time appropriation of 75-million-dollars for projects that don't meet criteria for federal funding.