In the early 1900’s, the North Side Canal System, of which we are at the furthest West point, was formed. The water for this system comes from dams and reservoirs in the upper Snake River Basin. In this system we own approximately 1100 water shares. It is typical for us to receive 100-120% of our water rights. Because the water originates from the Jackson Hole, Wyoming area and Eastern Idaho, even during lean water years our supply tends to be more than adequate.
Our water-year runs mid April through mid October. During the remainder of the year we have livestock water rights. Our annual maintenance and operation assessment (NSCC) is around $25 per share.
There are about five ranches in our area that are lucky enough to have the canals above their ranches, thus allowing for gravity pressurization of their water. In our case, our pressure varies from 120 psi to 60 psi at our pivot points. The only pumps we use on our entire operation are boost pumps on a few of the pivot end guns.
In 1961 my parents bought the 101 Ranch. In the beginning, the ranch consisted of 600 acres of flood irrigated ground. In the late 60s my dad had drawn out on paper a gravity pressure system using hand lines but did not want the labor requirements to move the hand lines. A short time later pivot irrigation systems were developed we started the conversion to these systems in 1974-75.
The original system consisted of six pivot sprinklers with some hand lines and wheel lines. Water starts from the holding pond and moves into a pipe system that transports the water to all parts of the ranch. When the system was originally put in place it consisted of 800 acres of pressurized irrigation and 200 acres of flood irrigation.
The original system was composed of 20 and 16 inch steel pipe, 12 and 8 inch plastic and transite mainlines. Throughout the years we have added pivots to the irrigation system and replaced the hand and wheel lines with big gun irrigation systems. The big guns operate off of 3½ inch upset heavy wall tubing from oil fields. These pipes lay on top of the ground and have big gun holders every 150 feet. We use these on irrigated pastures. As we’ve replaced older pivots with newer ones, we have recycled the older pivots by moving them into pasture ground thus doing away with hand/wheel lines and big gun areas.
During the late 1980’s and early 1990’s the North Side Canal company was under pressure from the EPA and DEQ to stop the return flow of water from their canal back into the Snake River. Because of this we started brainstorming with them about potential solutions to this problem. In 2005 we entered into a drain elimination agreement with the canal company and the DEQ. The final solution created one six-acre diversion pond we named Virginia Lake after my mother and one additional four-acre holding pond. Also created was a dissipation pond where excess water could filter into the ground thus eliminating return flow to the Snake River. This project proved to be a win-win for the Ranch, the canal company and the environment. It has allowed us to increase the pressure on our existing system while doing away with canals going through the middle of the farm and has given us access to additional water available though pond system. Waterfowl and fish have flourished from this project. Friends planted 12” bass in the lake. Last summer a young fisherman caught a 9 pounder!!!
In the early 90’s, we started having leaks in some of our 20 and 16 inch steel pipe. We replaced this with 24 inch plastic pipe. We just recently finished our final upgrade and replaced the remainder of our 16 inch steel pipe with 16 and 12 inch plastic pipe running in the same trench. With these changes we have been able to eliminate all the steel mainline from our irrigation system and increase our overall system capacity.
With these pipeline changes and replacing at least one pivot this winter, we will have a total of 16 pivots of various lengths. With the latest additions, pivot irrigation will cover most of our farm and leave just 75 acres of big gun irrigated ground and approximately 15 acres of flood irrigated ground.