Taking advantage of irrigation water being shut off in the Lower Valley, both the Sunnyside Valley Irrigation District and the Roza Irrigation District are using this time to make improvements to their existing canals and perform maintenance.
According to Don Schramm, assistant manager of operations at SVID, one major project they are working on is building a re-regulation reservoir north of Granger near Pumkin Center. This project is part of the Sunnyside Canal Improvement Project and is being funded by the Bureau of Reclamation, Washington State Department of Ecology and the Sunnyside Division Board of Control.
The reservoir is just one of three that are being built for the project and the reservoir will hold 500 acre feet of water. The project will help SVID reduce its annual amount of water it diverts to allow for higher stream flows. The water kept in the reservoirs will help improve the availability of water supplies for irrigation.
Schramm said the reservoir should be completed by July 2008.
Another project SVID will be working on this winter is to pipe a drain off of Stover Road. A local dairyman, whose property runs along the drain, is paying for most of the project, Schramm said.
The piping of the drain will make it easier to maintain and will improve the water quality. The piping will also help eliminate grass weeds and slough that can plug up drains.
"The farmer will gain a little bit of ground as well," Schramm said.
SVID is also teaming up with the Roza Irrigation District to install a fish barrier at the mouth of Sulphur Creek drain.
Schramm said the project is important because some salmon stray off course and end up in the wasteway, which is not suitable for spawning. Before, members of the Yakama Nation have trapped and removed the salmon but the barrier will help solve the problem.
Tim Collett, assistant manager at Roza Irrigation District, said the fish barrier will be complete by March 1.
Schramm said SVID will also be working on maintenance projects. These will include cleaning out measurement and water delivery structures. The canals and laterals will be cleaned out using a machine that runs along the slope of the ditch.
Schramm also said SVID will do minor maintenance to keep the gates working and the staff gauges clean and operational. Leaks found from the previous irrigation season will also be patched.
Major projects Roza Irrigation District will be working on, besides the fish barrier with SVID, will include installing 12 miles of pipeline which will enclose four different lateral systems at the tail end of the Roza Canal just above Benton City.
Collett said by replacing the open laterals with an enclosed conduit system it will allow each delivery of water to be on a flow meter.
"This will eliminate the maintenance with open lateral systems and help prevent ditch loss," Collett added.
He also said the new system will eliminate the need to deal with aquatic weeds.
A benefit to some farmers is that the piping will create water pressure as well. Collett said some farmers near the end of the line won't have to use pumps to irrigate their land.
Sometime in 2008 a new check control structure will also be installed by Roza Irrigation District.
Collett said the check control structure will help elevate water in the canal to make it easier to deliver water.
As for maintenance, Collett said his crews will be sealing all the cracks in the concrete that line some canals.
"We did this last year and had good results with it," he said.