Irrigation Leader
Featured,  Interview

Brad Edgerton: Frenchman-Cambridge Irrigation District Cambridge, Nebraska

Years working in irrigation: 11 

Years as manager: 11

Number of employees: 11

Size of service area in acres: 45,669

Amount of water diverted for irrigation per year in acre-feet: 60,000

Main crops irrigated: Corn, soybeans

Predominant irrigation methods: Center pivot

Irrigation Leader: What is the top issue facing your irrigation district today?

Brad Edgerton: Limited water supply is our biggest issue. The Republican basin is water short. We’re seeing less streamflow into our reservoirs and less streamflow available for diversion during the irrigation season. We are spending a lot of money to conserve water and hopefully maintain our 8-inch-per-acre allocation for many more years.

Irrigation Leader: What future issues are you preparing for?

Brad Edgerton: Water shortage has been the main issue for the last couple of decades, and I don’t see that changing. Less streamflow makes complying with the Republican River Compact more difficult. In 2013 and 2014, Frenchman-Cambridge Irrigation District water users and the Bureau of Reclamation were required to bypass flows through our federal reservoirs and diversion dams to meet a forecasted Republican River Compact shortfall. That water administration was costly for our water users at a time when we had record-high commodity prices. We know the value of water and are doing our best to conserve it. We continue to look at new technology to improve water management.

Irrigation Leader: What are your top issues regarding personnel?

Brad Edgerton: Half our employees have been with the district for 40 years or more, and as they retire, it is a challenge to find good, quality workers who are willing to stick with the job for that kind of timespan. Unemployment is very low in Nebraska, so it’s hard to find people to do this kind of work. 

Irrigation Leader: What training do you currently provide to your employees? 

Brad Edgerton: The employees who have been here for a long time have learned what needs to be done on the job over the years. As technology changes, new employees are going to need additional skill sets. We haven’t sent our current employees to many workshops and conferences, but going forward, I’m sure that’ll be something that we’ll need to do.

Irrigation Leader: How much do you spend on training for your employees each year?

Brad Edgerton: Not too much. Longstanding employees train the new guys. The people who are here now have attended Reclamation workshops in the past.

Irrigation Leader: What is the most important thing you have learned as manager?

Brad Edgerton: Get good people around you, give them the tools and the resources they need, and let them do their jobs. 

Irrigation Leader: What are the top skills needed to be a successful manager?

Brad Edgerton: Communication is important, which includes being a good listener. I try to lead by example. I’m a manager who likes to get my hands dirty and be involved in projects in the field. You really get to know your people when you’re working beside them. 

Brad Edgerton is manager of the Frenchman-Cambridge Irrigation District in Cambridge, Nebraska. He can be contacted at bradley.edgerton@gmail.com or (308) 697-4535.