Idaho Irrigators Cashed in Their Juiceby Associated Press
Idaho Statesman, August 9, 2001
The state's farmers idled the most acres in buyback deal
BLACKFOOT -- Idaho irrigators were the biggest participants in the Northwest in programs paying them to turn off their pumps during this summer's regional power crisis.
In addition to the 154,000 acres that 440 Southern Idaho farmers idled in return for $79 million in payments from Idaho Power Co., farmers turned off another 500 pumps watering 45,000 acres in Eastern Idaho in return for compensation from PacifiCorp.
And the Bonneville Power Administration's incentives to curtail irrigation pumping took another 6,400 acres out of production.
That is about 10 percent of Idaho's irrigated farm acreage.
"Idaho has idled the most acreage," said Lynn Tominaga, executive director of the Idaho Irrigation Pumpers Association and Idaho Ground Water Appropriators.
He estimated that the combined programs will save the annual equivalent of more than 750 megawatt-hours of electricity.
The buyback programs have helped reduce the overall demand for power, curbing the amount of extra electricity utilities have had to purchase on an expensive open market.
The buyback programs were approved for just this year, but their future will be determined by this winter's snowpack.
"A lot of it depends on what the spot market does next year, snowpack and reservoirs. We're going to need a minimum of 80 percent of normal," Tominaga said.
"If we don't hit those figures, we could be sitting in the same spot we are now, or even worse."
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