Nov 25 2007

Of wetter days

Published by at 2:40 pm under Idaho

Perry Swisher of Boise – this is a mere blog entry, so we won’t recap here his almost endless activities in Idaho politics, society and government for more than a half-century – is among the relative handful of people who have been around and observed broadly enough to watch the change in the state’s environment over a course of not just years but decades, and even quarter-centuries.

His columns, posted periodically for public access at the Idaho State Journal‘s political blog, are always worth a look. But we were struck by this recollection, as this year’s winter climate starts to set in.

So much water was coursing through Hells Canyon of the Snake in the summer of 1986, that a great wave struck the steering paddle on one float vessel and knocked my cousin, a whitewater expert, into the river and drowned him. The torrent through the canyon was so inviting to rafters that a recent import into the staff of specialists at the Idaho Public Utilities Commission couldn’t stay out of it.
The result: He lost his wife because she couldn’t stand the risks he put her through and divorced him.
One serious proposal during that surplus of wet was to cut a channel west of Soda Springs and divert some of the surplus Bear River flow past Chesterfield. It would go toward Lava Hot Springs into the Portneuf River, and thence into the always thirsty Snake River at American Falls west of Pocatello.
There are geologists who say that geologically recent lava dikes formed in Eastern Idaho and rechanneled flood waters from Henry’s Fork back into the main Snake River’s flow, and thus ended a long inflow which had made what they call the Great Aquifer an underground resource to the Snake River Plain.
Had it not been for the delay in the formation of those lava dikes, this aquifer would never have become so enormous. It is still ranked as if it were the equal of one of the Great Lakes that lie above the Midwest and the New York-Ohio country.
When the big rains and snows invaded the Great Basin in the 1980s, there were those including Dr. Evan Kackley of Wayan who believed Idaho should blast a channel south of Hamer or Roberts into the lavas of the Arco desert so the prehistoric flooding could resume.
Weather and the human race are never long in agreement; maybe the Hamer-Roberts idea was all it took to dissuade the weather gods because 22 years have passed since we last saw “too much water.”
It’s true we would be tempting the fates, but we do that every time we reconvene the Idaho Legislature. I suggest the dreams we dream when in surplus be built into our plans in this time of genuine thirst.

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