By ROBERT S. MERRILL
Proponents of an irrigation/hydroelectric dam on the Bear River, approximately 15 miles northeast of Preston, were dealt a second setback late Thursday afternoon when the director of the Idaho Department of Water Resources upheld a previous denial of a water-right request deemed critical for the project.
IDWR director Gary Spackman issued a final order late Thursday upholding an earlier denial of the company’s request. Company president Clair Bosen told The Citizen early Friday morning he was holding a board of directors’ meeting and consulting with attorneys to discuss options. He declined further comment.
Twin Lakes applied for a water-right permit in 2007 for wintertime storage of water from the Bear River in a proposed irrigation/hydroelectric dam near the mouth of the Oneida Narrows. The canal company proposed to build a 700-foot-long, 108-foot-high dam.
In August the program manager of IDWR denied the water-right request and the company appealed the decision to the director.
Bosen said there were mistakes in the initial rejection of the water right application, particularly how downstream users in Utah would be impacted.
On Thursday Spackman’s ruling stated the proposed project, “. . . would reduce the quantity of water under existing water rights and the proposed application conflicts with the local public interest.”
Twin Lakes Canal Company had ask for an allocation of 17,300 acre-feet of water from the Bear River for storage in the proposed dam and eventual delivery to Franklin County farmers.
“The company planned to take water from its shares in Mink Creek and dump that back into the Bear River to replace what was lost,” Bosen explained in August.
The company wanted to construct the reservoir for storage of water taken from the Bear River when unallocated shares are available in the winter. Bosen said previously the company’s current delivery system, comprising 67 miles of open canals and siphons, freezes up every winter and restricts water for storage in Twin Lakes, Condie and Winder reservoirs.
“We have several farmers who have shares in Twin Lakes Canal Company that ran out of water this August and September. The majority of years, about 60 percent of the time, the company does not have enough water to meet the demands of needed to irrigate 17,000 acres of land,” he said in a earlier statement.
Bosen said the dam would have an installed capacity of 10 megawatts of power, could serve 6,700 homes and eventually pay for itself while ensuring farmers have adequate water to grow crops.
The project has been opposed by Idaho Rivers United, Trout Unlimited and the Greater Yellowstone Coalition.
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