Reclamation Provides Flow Augmentation Water for Fish, Despite Drought

Media Contact: John Redding, (208) 378-5212
Richard Rigby, (208) 378-5092

For Release: July 30, 2004

The Bureau of Reclamation is providing 335,000 acre-feet of water in 2004 for flow augmentation for ESA-listed species, according to Regional Director Bill McDonald.

"This is a major achievement, considering Idaho is in its fifth year of drought," McDonald said. "Much of the credit for this achievement goes to the Idaho irrigation community, which stepped up to the challenge, even when many of them would not get a full water supply for their own needs."

For example, Payette water users have been instrumental in the efforts to provide augmentation water. Reclamation will release up to 160,000 acre-feet from the Payette River system to augment flows to aid salmon smolt migration in the lower Snake River. Release of these waters began the latter part of June and will continue through August. It is anticipated that Lake Cascade will be at approximately 450,000 acre-feet storage (about 85 percent of the average over 30 years) on September 1.

McDonald also acknowledged the efforts of the Committee of Nine, the entity in charge of the Water District One rental pool in eastern Idaho, which asked its members to provide 3 percent of their available storage for flow augmentation. The commitment to provide this water was made in early spring, when snowpack conditions indicated a less than normal amount of water available for irrigation in 2004.

In addition, Reclamation and the Idaho Department of Water Resources approved innovative exchange agreements, under which Twin Falls Canal Company and North Side Canal Company secured natural flow water rights available in the Idaho Water Bank. The water was made available to replace more than 50,000 acre-feet that Reclamation would have delivered to the Snake River from storage. IDWR is protecting the natural flow supplies rented as if they had been released from storage.

Under a Biological Opinion from NOAA Fisheries, the Bureau of Reclamation delivers 427,000 acre-feet of water from the Snake River to augment flows during salmon migration. The Opinion recognizes that 427,000 acre-feet may not necessarily be achievable every year. Since 1993, Reclamation has met this goal in 8 years. The acquired water is obtained only from willing sellers and lessors, in accordance with State law.

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Reclamation is the largest wholesale water supplier and the second largest producer of hydroelectric power in the United States, with operations and facilities in the 17 Western States. Its facilities also provide substantial flood control, recreation, and fish and wildlife benefits. Visit our website at and follow us on Twitter @USBR.