New Idaho dam studies a waste of taxpayer money

In a letter delivered to the Idaho Water Board Friday, Jan. 24, Idaho Rivers United urged the board to prioritize comprehensive water planning and water efficiency over new dams on the Boise or Weiser rivers.

In his State of the State address on Jan. 6, Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter asked the Idaho Legislature to approve $15 million to study new water storage projects, including $2 million for Galloway Dam on the Weiser River and $1.5 million to study raising Arrowrock Dam on the Boise River 70 feet.

“For over 20 years, Idaho Rivers United has defended the free-flowing rivers of Idaho from unneeded, destructive dams,” said IRU Boise River Campaign Coordinator Liz Paul. “But 20 years pales in comparison to the 60 years since the Weiser-Galloway Dam project was first considered, and first rejected.”

Paul said that, if anything, the case against Galloway Dam has only grown stronger over the past six decades. IRU and numerous Idahoans staunchly oppose the project.

“The Water Board should use the $2 million Gov. Otter requested to write a comprehensive basin plan for the Weiser River,” Paul said. “It’s past time for a basin plan for the Weiser River, and continuing study of the Weiser-Galloway project without a basin plan constitutes a major failure of the Board.”

IRU’s opposition to raising Arrowrock Dam is similarly founded, but Paul also pointed out that such a raise would be illegal because of the Boise River’s status as a State Protected River.

“The Board granted the river state protection in 1992 for good reasons,” she said. “We are opposed to spending $1.5 million of taxpayer money to pursue new water storage when the state has never even had cause to implement a water demand reduction program.”

As with the Galloway proposal, IRU urged the Water Board to spend the $1.5 million Otter requested to complete an unfinished comprehensive basin plan for the lower Boise River, a plan into which state taxpayers have already invested thousands of dollars.

Building a higher dam at Arrowrock would have a profound impact on the 64 miles of free-flowing river below Lucky Peak Dam, including loss of sediment transportation that benefits river health, loss of dilution of phosphorous and other nutrients contributing to algal blooms in the lower Boise and Snake rivers, and loss of native cottonwoods.

Paul called the state’s consideration of these projects “frivolous” and urged the Water Board to focus instead on water efficiency measures, which are the quickest, cheapest and most reliable ways to drought-proof Idaho.