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350 Farmers Lose Irrigation Rights

350 Farmers Lose Irrigation Rights

Estimated read time: 1-2 minutes

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Irrigation rights for 350 farmers have been shut off after they used their allotment of water from the Bear River for the year.

Utah and Idaho farmers who get their water from the West Cache Canal Co. had used up their summer's allocation by Saturday night, so the head gates to the Bear River were closed, said Joseph G. Larsen, president of the canal company.

The canal irrigates about 15,000 acres.

"I didn't think we'd make it into August," Larsen said.

Farmers who depend on Bear River water stored in the Bear Lake upstream are getting only 40 percent as much as normal because the lake is at its lowest point in seven decades.

Utah Power, which manages the stored water, made the allocations last spring.

Ninety irrigators lost their rights last week when the Utah Division of Water Rights ordered them to stop pumping directly from the Bear River behind Cutler Reservoir.

Lee Sim, assistant state engineer for distribution, said Monday that one or two pumpers could face legal action because they have not yet stopped taking Bear River water.

The West Cache Canal begins north of Preston, Idaho, and flows down the northwest side of the Cache Valley. About a quarter of the canal company's shareholders are Idaho farmers.

This year's water allocations were based on the elevation Bear Lake reached after last winter's runoff.

At year's end, the lake's elevation is expected to be at 5,903 feet, just a foot above the point at which Utah Power's pumps do not work.

(Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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