Lewiston Orchards Water Exchange Project breaks ground to drill new well

LEWISTON, ID - For years, wells in the L-C Valley and surrounding area haven't been getting the water they need.

There's a plan in place that's projected to fix that problem, at least for one area. Carol Zinke went to the ground breaking ceremony for the Lewiston Orchards Water Exchange Project and has this report.

The Bureau of Reclamation and the Lewiston Orchards Irrigation District (LOID) are behind a water exchange project to replace a portion of LOID's irrigation water supply to permanently resolve irrigation water issues and adverse impacts to endangered fish.

"How we get the water to the Lewiston Orchard Irrigation District has been a problem for years, because there's been concerns that the water has been diverted out of the creek and it's impacted the watershed in a way that hurts our fish recovery and other aspects of the natural ecosystem here in the watershed," said Senator Mike Crapo.

Barney Metz is the general manager for LOID. He said it took a while to look at all their options and figure out what works best, but he says they've come to an agreement and everyone is excited.

In fact, construction for a new well is in the works right now. It's on 10th Street between Powers and Ripon Avenue.

"So the pad sight is ready to go, there's some water lines being place down right now and we hope to have the drill here in October and we'll begin to drill a massive hole that's going to bring a lot of water out of the ground to replace the water that's limited on Craig Mountain," said Metz.

Not only will this new well bring more water to people in Lewiston and keep endangered wildlife safe, but Metz said it'll have a big impact on the economy as well.

"We're bringing contractors into town who will be doing the work," said Metz. "They're going to buy materials locally and spend money here before they move out of the area. They'll also be staying in hotels, eating at restaurants, contacting suppliers here and that's all going to be happening for several years."

Senator Crapo said this project will fix an array of issues we've been facing.

"We'll be able to stop divergent on the creeks, allow the watershed to return to its natural state, which will protect fish and wildlife," said Senator Crapo. "We've been able to do it in a way that will continue to provide a stable source of water for the irrigation district and the people of Lewiston."

Metz said over time you'll begin to see the cost of your irrigation water go up, but he says it shouldn't cost as much as the water you receive in your house.

The Nez Perce Tribe, U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, Idaho Fish & Game and LOID have been working on this project for seven years now.