The Michaud Flats Project area, as here described, includes about 65 square miles in central Power County, south of the Snake River in the southeastern Snake River Plain of Idaho. The principal town and commercial center of the area is American Falls.
The immediate purpose of work in the area by the U.S. Geological Survey was to investigate the possibility of developing substantial quantities of ground water for irrigating high and outlying lands in the proposed Michaud Flats Project area of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. Initial findings are sufficiently favorable to warrant comprehensive further investigation. Advanced study would assist proper utilization of ground-water resources and would aid ultimate evaluation of total water resources available in the area.
About 10,000 acres of low-lying lands in the Michaud Flats project could be irrigated with water from the Snake River under a low-line distribution system involving a maximum pumping lift of about 200 feet above the river. An additional larger area of high and outlying lands is suitable for irrigation with water pumped from wells. If sufficient ground water is economically available, the expense of constructing and operating a costly highline distribution system for surface water could be saved.
Reconnaissance of the ground-water geology of the area disclosed surface outcrops of late Cenozoic sedimentary, pyroclastic, and volcanic rocks. Well logs and test borings show that similar materials are present beneath the land surface in the zone of saturation. Ground water occurs under perched, unconfined, and confined (artesian) conditions, but the aquifers have not been adequately explored. Existing irrigation wells, 300 feet or less in depth, yield several hundred to 1,400 gallons of water a minute, with pumping drawdowns of 6 to 50 feet, and perhaps more. A few wells have been pumped out at rates of less than 800 gallons a minute. Scientific well-construction and development methods would lead to more efficient well performance.
A generalized water-table contour map of the area shows that the principal general direction of ground-water movement is toward the west and northwest. The southwestern part of the American Falls Reservoir, and a segment of the Snake River below the dam, may be perched above the water table. Ground water appears to move beneath this segment of the river to the Snake River Plain on the northwest side.
So far as is known, recharge to the ground-water reservoir is chiefly from local sources and from the runoff from the mountain area southeast of the project. Seepage losses from surface water spread for irrigation would contribute a substantial amount of new recharge to the ground water, but the amount of such recharge might be less than the depletion of ground water by pumping. Therefore, with ground-water irrigation a part of the project, return flow to the American Falls Reservoir might be less than it is in the existing regimen. Ground-water pumping where the ground water is not tributary to the reservoir might not deplete the reservoir appreciably, but would reduce the net supply of water available west of Neeley.
Evidence indicates that at least moderate supplies of ground water can be obtained in low-lying areas southwest and northeast of American Falls, but the safe perennial yields of the aquifers cannot now be estimated. The ground-water potential in high and outlying lands is not known. It is unlikely that this potential is sufficient to supply all high and outlying lands, but the supply may be adequate for a substantial part of these lands. Thorough investigation appears to be warranted.
Additional publication details
USGS Numbered Series
Preliminary report on ground water in the Michaud Flats Project, Power County, Idaho
U.S. Dept. of the Interior, Geological Survey, Water Resources Division, Ground Water Branch,