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Blackfoot Mayor Mike Virtue learned Tuesday morning that the water supply going into Jensen Grove Lake would be shut off by Tuesday afternoon because of a water shortage. He said this is the earliest he has seen the water supply cut off in 13 years.
"Last year we were fortunate to still have water until November. I was hoping this year that we'd last until at least mid-August but it's just been too dry," he said.
Virtue explained that the city purchases water rights to fill the lake from Snake River Irrigation and that its administrators control the water flow.
"It's all about water availability. The reservoirs are currently below 30 percent. This is something that needs to be done," he said. "There is still a lot of irrigation time needed for potatoes and sugar beets. Agriculture takes precedence over recreation."
Bingham County commissioners declared a water shortage emergency in the county last month which is the first step needed to officially be declared a "disaster" by federal officials. Several counties in the state, including Butte, Fremont, Madison and Clark, have already been declared disaster areas because of the extreme heat and lack of rain the past two months. The declaration makes farmers in the counties eligible for low interest emergency loans to help cover crop losses attributed to the drought.
Virtue stressed that once the water flow stops, the levels in the lake will drop quickly. Idaho Fish & Game has been notified of the water situation and is expected to issue a salvage order on the fish; however, until an official salvage order has been confirmed, all fishing rules and regulations at Jensen Grove are still in effect.
While there is a small possibility that the water supply into the lake could be turned back on, Virtue said he is not very optimistic about the chances.