Reclamation to Reach Salmon Flow Augmentation Target for 2005

Media Contact: Diana Cross, (208) 378-5020
Jerrold Gregg, (208) 383-2246

For Release: June 23, 2005

The Bureau of Reclamation will provide the full amount of flow augmentation water for ESA-listed species in 2005, according to Regional Director Bill McDonald. Under a Biological Opinion from NOAA Fisheries, the Bureau of Reclamation is to acquire and deliver 427,000 acre-feet of water from the Snake River Basin to augment flows during salmon migration.

"Unusual spring weather was a big help, but meeting this objective is still a significant achievement, considering the drought," McDonald said. "We take our commitment to salmon recovery very seriously."

The target of 427,000 acre-feet is also part of the Nez Perce water rights settlement, one of the largest and most complex water-rights settlements in U.S. history. The acquired water is obtained from willing sellers and lessors in accordance with State law. Passage of legislation in support of the settlement agreement in March 2005 enables Reclamation to continue purchasing or leasing water for this purpose over the long term.

Reclamation's success in meeting the target is due to several factors, according to McDonald. Although prospects for meeting the flow augmentation goal were bleak just a few weeks ago, heavy May rains throughout much of the Snake River plain, new sources of water made available through the recently approved Nez Perce Water Rights Settlement, and Reclamation's persistence in exploring every available source of water, have led to this success.

The Nez Perce sttlement allowed certain natural flows and water stored in power head space to be acquired and used for flow augmentation purposes. The Settlement provides that Reclamation may rent or acquire 60,000 acre-feet of water associated with high lift pump lands. The State of Idaho has acquired water rights of the Bell Rapids Mutual Irrigation Company and is making them available to Reclamation under a long-term lease. Of this 60,000 acre-feet, 49,800 acre-feet are available during the April 10-August 31 augmentation season, and will be counted towards Reclamation's flow augmentation objective. The settlement also provides that water stored in the power head space of Palisades Dam may be used as a last resort to firm up the 427,000 acre-feet. Depending on final rentals from irrigation storage right holders, Reclamation will likely need to release 40,000-45,000 acre-feet of this power head water. "This achievement illustrates the power of working together toward a common goal, and much of the credit goes to the Idaho irrigation community," observed Jerry Gregg, Manager of the Snake River Area.

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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.