At 7 a.m. Thursday, June 29, Riverton Valley Irrigation District opened the canal head gates on the Wind River for the first time since flooding damaged the system three weeks earlier. Approximately 140 cfs (cubic feet per second) of water is now flowing toward the farms north of the city.
Over those three weeks some 15,000 tons of fill was hauled in to build a 1,600-foot protective levee north of the head gates.
A new 1,250 foot stretch of canal was surveyed, dug and graded in order to convey irrigation water around some 200 yards of canal that was obliterated by flood waters.
After a secondary surge of flood water destroyed a critical bridge to the work site, a new bridge was built to handle the semis carrying their 25-ton loads.
A temporary head gate was designed, manufactured and put in place in preparation for the moment when the new canal would be tied into the existing canal. Roads were built, maintained and, on occasion, rebuilt after secondary surges of flood water cut through.
Sand, silt, trees and all sorts of other flotsam were removed from the system, and safety features such as the system's sand trap and emergency gates were cleaned out and readied for use.
The full cost of this project is not yet known, though the early estimate of $750,000 to get water down the ditch appears to be close. The financial costs that many of the area's farmers will bear are also unknown; we can only hope for the best.
We do know this, however: There is a good number of citizens whose livelihoods are tied to this irrigation system in one way or another, and we owe a great deal of gratitude to those who worked through holidays and weekends, floods and force-10 winds in order to get water down our canal.
As president of the Riverton Valley Irrigation District, on behalf of all of us, thank you.