Volume 14 Issue 8 September MT

A Generational Project

By Kris Polly

Like so many western irrigation districts, the Huntley Project Irrigation District (HPID), established in 1907, has served many generations of farmers.

With that age in mind, it’s not surprising that HPID’s infrastructure has been in need of some repair, and this month, Scott Aspenlieder of Performance Engineering tells us about a major recent project his firm carried out for the district: the full replacement of the Highline Pump Station. As Mr. Aspenlieder explains, HPID was determined to do the project right: “The previous structure had operated for 100 years, and the board intended to build a structure that would last another 100 years.”

Then, we speak with two leaders from the Four States Irrigation Council, which has been providing irrigators from Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska, and Wyoming a forum to connect with each other and share ideas for more than 70 years. We interview current Four States President Steve Fletcher as well as Brian Werner, who helped run the organization for many years. In addition to its conference each January, which is a must-visit for all in the region, Four States organizes an annual summer tour, which this year visited Wyoming.

With that in mind, we talk to the managers of two Wyoming irrigation districts: Kevin Strecker of Goshen Irrigation District (GID) and Tyler Weckler of Heart Mountain Irrigation District (HMID). GID, which was on the itinerary for Four States’ 2023 tour, has been working to recover from a catastrophic 2019 tunnel collapse and is planning a permanent replacement for the tunnel, among other projects. HMID is working on a variety of rehab projects as well as grappling with the changes in land and water use caused by urbanization.

We also speak with Margo Jarvis Redelback of the Alberta Irrigation Districts Association to learn a bit about irrigated ag north of the border.

Then, we talk to Andrew Skibo, who recently launched ClearChannel Vegetation Management, an aquatic weed control company specifically aimed at helping irrigation districts.

Finally, we speak with Rick Dieker, who is preparing to retire after more than 40 years at the Yakima-Tieton Irrigation District (YTID), 25 of which were as its manager. Mr. Dieker’s retirement will be a loss for YTID, but the good news is that his work on piping and other improvement projects have put the district in a good position moving forward.

The history of irrigation districts such as GID, HMID, and HPID, each of which is well over 100 years old, demonstrates the significance of irrigated ag for our country. While that long history implies the need for infrastructure maintenance and repair today, it also reminds us of the efforts of the many farmers and water managers of the past. Like them, today’s irrigation professionals are working to ensure that these irrigation projects serve future generations.

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.