BOISE -- Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter's plan to send $15 million flowing toward water projects cleared its first hurdle.
The Joint Finance-Appropriation Committee Friday unanimously backed the request, which includes spending millions studying new or higher dams, buying water rights for the Mountain Home Air Force Base and pumping Snake River water back into a dwindling underground reservoir beneath southeastern Idaho.
Originally, Otter wanted the money starting July 1.
But budget writers expedited the governor's push, partially to give the Idaho Department of Water Resources an opportunity to start on projects a little earlier amid another winter of lackluster snowfall -- and the increasing likelihood of another summer plagued by drought.
For instance, a water call issued this week could affect 157,000 acres in southern Idaho.
The full Legislature must still vote.