Volume 14 Issue 5 May NZ

Canal Safety

By Kris Polly

In this month’s cover story, we speak with John Sunckell, an elected councilor for Environment Canterbury, Canterbury’s regional council, about efficiency, the environment, regulation, and the public perception of dairy farming. Mr. Sunckell’s background in agriculture and his experience in civil defense and hazard and risk management mean that he is able to effectively connect the immediate challenges of South Island farmers with longer-term concerns about climate change and the generational task of setting and implementing environmental regulations.

Next, we take a multifaceted look at canal safety. Nevada- based Truckee-Carson Irrigation District (TCID) has experienced a major canal breach in 2008 and challenges caused by uncommonly high precipitation in 2017 and 2023. In response to all this, as we hear from General Manager Ben Shawcroft, TCID is undertaking a major canal-lining project and considering other system upgrades. We also speak with Roy McClinton, the technical sales director at HUESKER Inc., which is providing the geocomposite material that TCID will use to line its canal. He also tells us about other products of interest to irrigation districts.

Next, we speak with Jeremy Ryf, the safety officer and building maintenance manager at central Washington’s Quincy–Columbia Basin Irrigation District, about infrastructure upgrades, safety railings, employee trainings, personal flotation devices, and other district safety initiatives.

The foundation of canal safety is safely constructed canals, and ensuring that canals are structurally sound and durable is something the Bureau of Reclamation’s Concrete & Structural Laboratory works on every day. Katie Bartojay, the lab’s manager, tells us about the impressive research the lab carries out and its unique facilities and equipment, including the 5-million-pound testing machine.

Automated gate manufacturer Rubicon Water started in Australia and is now active worldwide. An article from Jorge Ramírez Contreras, who handles marketing, strategy, and communication for Rubicon throughout Latin America, focuses on some recent successful projects in Chile and Argentina.

In California water politics, the Sierra Nevada is often thought of simply as a source of water, but the mountain counties have water interests and water rights of their own. We speak with Mountain Counties Water Resources Association Executive Director Justin Caporusso to learn more.

Next, an article by Jill Carding focuses on Rubicon’s part in a series of large aquifer and surface water recharge projects in New Zealand.

Finally, we sit down with Hervé Plusquellec, a French- born irrigation engineer with an incredible 60-year career that has included experience all over the world in a government agency, an international consulting firm, the World Bank, and as a private consultant. Our conversation is fascinating on both the personal and professional levels—it’s a must-read.

Materials science, assiduous maintenance, farsighted planning, and careful safety programs all have a role in ensuring that canals are safe for irrigation district employees, members of the public, and local communities. We salute the irrigation professionals working to ensure that canals across our nation are and remain safe.

Kris Polly is the editor-in-chief of Irrigation Leader magazine and the 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.