Water

id.water.usgs.gov

I spent 15 minutes entranced watching the Boise River sparkle and the fall leaves rustle on the computer screen in my windowless studio.  U.S. Geological Survey hydraulic engineer Molly Wood talked about the features of the USGS Boise River web camera while I played with the controls. I zoomed in on trees upstream and flipped it around to see the cars on the Glenwood Bridge.

GHarness / Flickr Creative Commons

Trout Unlimited and the Wood River Land Trust have announced a plan to restore the Big Wood River in central Idaho.

The partnership announced last week and called the Big Wood River Home Rivers Initiative is described as a long-term effort to reconnect tributaries, promote fish passage and maintain stream flows.

Scott Boettger of the Wood River Land Trust says summer wildfires followed by mudslides combined with low flows and increased water temperatures are timely reminders of the challenges the Big Wood faces.

Jessica Robinson / Northwest News Network

A river basin cleanup in north Idaho is showing just how difficult it is to remove long-term pollution from Northwest waterways. This month, the EPA is running tests on layers of muck from the bottom of the Coeur d'Alene River. It’s downstream from a federal superfund site.

A technician lowers a 7-foot tube into the riverbed, like a straw into a piece of bread.

droughtmonitor.unl.edu

Despite recent rainfall, southwest Idaho's Treasure Valley is currently experiencing "extreme" drought conditions with most of the state in a "severe" drought. The entire state of Idaho is experiencing some level of drought, with the exception of a sliver of the northern panhandle.

An online project called U.S. Drought Monitor maps the nation's drought conditions on a weekly basis using multiple indices.

Idaho water quality regulators must go back to the drawing board after the federal Environmental Protection Agency rejected a rule that allowed some pollution to be discharged into state waterways without a review.

In 2011, the EPA actually approved an Idaho Department of Environmental Quality rule exempting activities such as mining from review in some instances, provided their accompanying water pollution fell below a certain threshold.

Nicholas D. / Flickr Creative Commons

It’s only July 22, but Lucky Peak Reservoir is already seeing the effects of a dry and hot season.

The Bureau of Reclamation has started dropping water levels in the reservoir, and is diverting the water for irrigation. Farmers in the Boise River watershed usually get water from the system around Labor Day. But with supplies at about 50 percent of normal, this year the diversion is happening five weeks earlier.

So what does this mean for recreation at Lucky Peak the rest of this summer?

Steelhead
Matt Corsi / Idaho Fish and Game

Farmers, town leaders and biologists in Idaho are banding together to demolish a roughly 10-foot-high barrier and restore a creek to a more-natural state to give steelhead a better shot at producing the state's next generation of oceangoing rainbow trout.

To spawn in the west fork of Idaho's Little Bear Creek, federally protected wild steelhead trout must swim 500 miles from the Pacific Ocean. But once they arrive in Troy, the 93-year-old concrete dam blocks all but the strongest from reaching the stream's headwaters.

U.S. Senate

Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden had bad news Thursday for farmers, fishermen, and tribes who signed on to a water rights settlement in the Klamath Basin in 2010. The senator told the groups their plan for resolving the water crisis is too expensive.

The Klamath tribes hold senior water rights to the headwaters of the Klamath river. In the settlement, called they KBRA, the tribes agreed provide a steady supply of water to farmers in exchange for big investments in habitat restoration and fisheries management.

Charles Peterson / Flickr Creative Commons

The Sandhill Crane may be one species that's seeing the impact of dry conditions. Crane numbers in Idaho have continued to decline in the past three years.

The Idaho Department of Fish and Game says that decline means a lower number of those birds can be hunted this season. The Pacific Flyway Council (PFC) is the governing body that monitors migratory bird populations in the West. Every September the group oversees bird counts in 11 states and sets rules about hunting.

Frank Kovalchek / Flickr Creative Commons

If you were to go to the banks of the Snake River downstream of Milner Dam near Burley, you wouldn’t see much more than a trickle of water. That’s because the federal Bureau of Reclamation shut off the river flow on June 4.

For at least 25 miles, there isn’t enough water for a kayaker to paddle through. Idaho Power runs the hydroelectric plant at the dam, and says the zero flow will impact its operations through late July.  

Klamath Tribes Call In Their Water Rights

Jun 11, 2013

With drought conditions worsening in southern Oregon, the Klamath Tribes for the first time are exercising their claim as the most senior water rights holder in the Klamath Basin.

It’s a step that could make water unavailable for farmers to irrigate tens of thousands of acres of crops and alfalfa. The tribes delivered what's known as 'a call' Monday to the Oregon Water Resources Department.

Washington Supreme Court Hears WSU Golf Course Case

May 24, 2013

The Supreme Court of Washington Thursday heard oral arguments in a case that could change how cities, towns and universities manage water. Northwest conservation groups are suing Washington State University. They say it’s draining the region’s aquifer.

It all started on a golf course on Washington’s hilly Palouse. Pullman homeowner Scotty Cornelius says Washington State University’s golf course is improperly draining the aquifer he relies on for water. The amount of water in the aquifer has been dropping by about one foot per year.

Kevin Micalizzi / Flickr Creative Commons

The United States Geological Survey recently studied nitrate levels in streams around the country. The study found that nitrate – which can be dangerous in drinking water – can affect water systems for decades.

Although none of these study areas were in Idaho, Michael Lewis says the study is worth a closer look.

Brad Washa / Boise National Forest

Firefighters continue to battle a large blaze in southern California that started last week. At its most dangerous, the wildfire threatened about 4,000 homes and has moved quickly in the dry and windy conditions.

In Idaho, the National Interagency Fire Center predicts a slightly milder – but still above average – fire season.

Kevin Micalizzi / Flickr Creative Commons

Later today, the Natural Resources Conservation Service will release a full report on snowpack and water levels in Idaho so far this year. The report will help paint a clearer picture of a complicated water scenario.

Water specialist Ron Abramovich says this year’s snowpack started off strong, but quickly dropped off. That makes for diverse stream levels.

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