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Introduces bill to expand access to existing aging infrastructure funds for repairs

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Jim Risch (R-Idaho) today introduced the  Urban Canal Modernization Act to allow Bureau of Reclamation aging infrastructure funding to help address repairs for urban canals with extraordinary maintenance issues. Many western canals, like the New York Canal in Idaho’s Treasure Valley, have gone from being rural in nature to surrounded by urban infrastructure over time. 

“Many urban canals need repairs that, if left unattended, could pose substantial danger to the communities that have been built around them,”  said Risch. “The Urban Canal Modernization Act is a commonsense fix that establishes access to existing aging infrastructure funds to address these canals’ extraordinary maintenance issues. Maintaining these canals will protect our way of life in the West and our property.” 

The New York Canal in Idaho, which conveys water from the Boise River 41 miles to Lake Lowell, was once surrounded by farmland. Today, it’s located amid one of the fastest growing metropolitan areas in the country. Converted agricultural land is common across the West, but poses challenges in regards to infrastructure updates. The New York Canal, like many urban canals, provides important agricultural and municipal uses, but also has extraordinary maintenance that comes at a much higher risk being surrounded by homes and businesses than the rural landscape that was primarily present when the canals were constructed.

These canals currently do not have easy access to funding to make these repairs as a result of their urban surroundings. The Urban Canal Modernization Act would fix this by allowing Reclamation funding to be used for certain urban canal maintenance issues.

The Idaho Water Users Association and Boise Project Board of Control have both voiced support for Risch’s bill.

“Extensive urban growth around irrigation canals has created new challenges for water managers throughout the west. Whereas these canals historically crossed through farm fields and other open areas, they are often surrounded by housing developments, parks, schools, shopping centers, and other development. The increase in development has resulted in many such canals being designated as ‘urban canals of concern.’ Importantly, the challenges, and associated significant increase in costs for maintenance, were not anticipated when the canals were constructed. Thank you to Senator Risch for working with water users to provide opportunities for resources to help offset these significant costs,” said Paul Arrington, Executive Director & General Council, Idaho Water Users Association.

“The Boise Project Board of Control has operated the New York Canal for over a century. This canal is the primary artery for irrigation water delivery to over 160,000 acres in Idaho's Treasure Valley. Over one hundred years ago when the canal was constructed it was out in the desert. Today the area around the canal has experienced significant, extensive population growth and development. In recent years, the Treasure Valley has a been among the nation's fastest growing communities. Recognizing the challenges of this growth and encroachment on the canal, Reclamation has designated the New York Canal as an ‘urban canal of concern.’ The cost of operating and maintaining a canal in this urban setting is significantly higher - more than double in many instances. Additional safety measures are often required as well. This legislation will provide additional tools to the Boise Project as it works to provide safe, efficient delivery of water long into the future.  Thank you to Senator Risch for helping develop this solution that will benefit water users throughout Idaho and the west,” said Bob Carter, Manager, Boise Project Board of Control.

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