- Associated Press - Wednesday, January 21, 2015

TWIN FALLS, Idaho (AP) - About 500 water rights holders in south-central Idaho are asking a judge to block a state order to stop taking water from an underground aquifer.

Idaho Department of Water Resources Director Gary Spackman issued the order Tuesday after the Idaho Ground Water Association failed to meet a weekend deadline to build a pipe as part of a mitigation plan.

The association responded by filing a motion to stay the order with Judge Eric Wildman of the Snake River Basin Adjudication Court.

A hearing is planned for Thursday in Twin Falls.

“There are a lot of people worried about it,” Randy Jones, mayor of the town of Paul, told The Times-News (https://bit.ly/1yKYqGv). “What would we do without water? There are a lot of questions. I just don’t have the answers.”

Paul is one of 14 cities that rely on groundwater and are affected by the order.

The association was supposed to build a pipe to Rangen Inc. to replace water belonging to the Hagerman-based fish farm and feed producer. Rangen has senior water rights but hasn’t been getting its share of water due to groundwater pumping from the East Snake Plain Aquifer. Courts have ruled that removing groundwater reduces the flows from springs, violating the water rights of those with earlier claims.

Rangen attorney Fritz Haemmerle said Rangen has rights to 70 cubic feet per second of water but that its consumption has been reduced to about 10 cubic feet per second due to groundwater pumping.

The association told state officials it wasn’t able to complete the pipe in time to meet last weekend’s deadline after complications arose concerning the type of pipe being used. The wrong kind of pipe, experts said, could lead to diseases being introduced at the fish farm.

Spackman’s order includes a large portion of Idaho’s dairy industry, and some 200 commercial livestock operations face losing water.

“You can’t not provide water to cows,” said Lynn Tominaga, executive director of the association. “This is insane.”

More than half of Idaho’s dairy processors are also in the curtailment area. One of them is Glanbia Foods. Jeff Williams, corporate consultant for the company, said he’s confident that “reason will prevail.”

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Information from: The Times-News, https://www.magicvalley.com

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