Irrigation projects, like well-paved highways, are important infrastructure that provides benefits for the long term. However, just like highways, irrigation projects need to be maintained and upgraded from time to time for continued service. District managers and their respective boards of directors understand this and are constantly thinking about where their limited resources will provide the most long-term value to their projects. Such planning is especially evident in Washington State. In this issue of Irrigation Leader, Scott Revell, general manager of Roza Irrigation District (RID), tells our readers about his district’s 30-plus year effort to improve their water supply and efficiency. The project was begun under the leadership and vision of Ron Van Gundy, former RID general manager, and carried forth by Ron’s successor, Tom Monroe. What is most interesting about this project is that the previous managers are still involved. The RID board saw the wisdom of retaining Ron Van Gundy to work part time on the project, and Tom Monroe is often consulted as well. As I pointed out in the interview, it is hard to retire from RID. Now the baton is in the hand of Scott Revell, and RID is moving forward at an accelerated pace.
Another example of long-term vision in Washington State is the Columbia Basin Project and its efforts to bring water to the Odessa. Though it was part of the original project, construction of surface water delivery was never completed. Now with aquifer levels dropping, efforts have been ongoing for the completion of the Odessa Ground Water Replacement Program (OGWRP). Mike Schwisow explains the plumbing of the OGWRP and how this modern day irrigation project will be completed.
Mike Miller, general manager for the Greater Wenatchee Irrigation District, is one of those wonderful, down-to-earth characters who seem to populate irrigation districts through out the West. Mike tells us about his district and the importance of building long-term relationships with the other local government entities. A Navy veteran with a knack for a succinct statement, I love Mike’s answer to the most important thing he has learned as district manager, “We work for the water users. Period.”
Another Navy veteran, and a relatively new addition to the Pacific Northwest Region, is Coleman Smith. Coleman is Reclamation’s new power manager at Grand Coulee Dam and, by all accounts, is exactly the long-term man for the new job. He has attended the board meetings of each of the Columbia Basin irrigation districts and personally provided his cell phone number to each manager. The boys like him, and that is the best start any new power manager can have. Reclamation Regional Director Lori Lee is to be commended for her ability to find the right people her long-term vision.
Finally, I would like to reference our interview with Mr. James Burke of Senniger Irrigation. Senniger has been making sprinklers, spray nozzles, and other irrigation components for over 50 years. Throughout the interview, Mr. Burke references “generations” of workers and a “generation of ideas” from farmers. In describing Senniger’s workers, he says, “They come to work every day and pull off things that would not happen without a strong element of teamwork and our other core values—honesty, loyalty, trust, and respect.” Such qualities are so important and the foundation for anything long-term.
Kris Polly is editor-in-chief of Irrigation Leader magazine and president of Water Strategies LLC, a government relations firm he began in February 2009 for the purpose of representing and guiding water, power, and agricultural entities in their dealings with Congress, the Bureau of Reclamation, and other federal government agencies. He may be contacted at Kris.Polly@waterstrategies.com.