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Idaho Adopts New State Water Plan

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Aaron Kunz

Idaho has a new water plan -- the first update since 1996 to the state’s principles for how water in streams, lakes and aquifers should be divided among users and how it should be conserved for fish and wildlife. The new plan goes into effect Friday.  But not everyone is happy about it.

The Idaho Water Plan doesn’t have the force of law, but it does offer some guidance over state policy when it comes to water.

Under state law, the proposed plan automatically took effect because it’s been 60 days since it was first introduced to the Legislature and no changes were made.

Idaho Water Board Chairman Roger Chase says the new plan doesn’t reduce existing rights to withdraw water for agriculture or other uses. But he says it is updated to address concerns about salmon recovery, wetlands, and what the report calls “climate variability.”

And it calls for voluntary actions, rather than imposing more regulations.

“So by doing that in a totally voluntary program, we have one of the most successful salmon recovery programs in the nation," Chase says.

The Idaho Conservation League has reservations about the new plan. It says the revisions don’t enough to protect water quality or habitat for fish and other wildlife.

A handful of lawmakers say they want to revise the water plan later this year.

Correction:We incorrectly stated the position of the Idaho Conservation League when it comes to the state of Idaho's newly revised water plan. The League has reservations about the plan but does not oppose it.

Copyright EarthFix 2013