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Riding herd on water

  Irrigation district ditchriders must make sure users get their share

by Jill Aho, Herald and News 6/20/10

     Klamath Irrigation District ditchrider Travis Marcott stood Wednesday at the intersection of the C Canal and two laterals, C4 and C5, checking the canals’ height and ensuring each had the proper flow.

   The C5, which goes into Marcott’s territory, serves some five or six farmers, he said.

   Marcott’s job this year will be especially challenging. Working with the K ID watermaster, he must maintain a consistent water level in the C Canal and its laterals while divvying up a portion of the 375-cubic-feetper-second flow allocated to K ID. On Saturday, the A Canal will flow at 425 cubic feet per second, what KID Manager Dave Solem said will be the average flow throughout the irrigation system.  

   Of that, 50 cubic feet per second is dedicated to the Van Brimmer Ditch Co. The rest will be divided among the eight “rides,” or areas that the district’s ditchriders maintain.

   “We’re giving each one of the guys an amount of water,” Solem said. As irrigators call in their orders, the ditchriders will add up the orders until they reach their ride’s maximum f low, Solem said. After that, there will be a waiting list.  

   More demand

   “On Saturday, there will be way more demand than we have water,” he said.

   Marcott’s equipment is simple: Cut boards that slide into slots in the thousands of weirs that control flow in the gravity-fed KID system. When Marcott removes a board, the amount of water moving through the canal increases; when he puts it back, the water slows down.

   Solem stressed the   need for good communication this year. KID is anticipating farmers will be able to apply a maximum of two acre-feet of water per acre this season, which for some will amount to four irrigations, Solem said.  

   “The employees of the district are the farmers’ best friends this year,” Solem said. “They have to work with those folks and keep them as informed as they possibly can.” The goal is to minimize fluctuations now that the canals are full. By turning of f irrigation without telling their ditchrider, farmers risk losing the water to an overflow. By turning water on without authorization from the ditchrider, the canal levels could be depleted or those at end of the canal could end up with insufficient water to irrigate.

   “It’s real important for us to keep the levels (as even) as we can,” Marcott said. “If farmers shut off without telling us, that water is wasted, and we don’t want that this year.”

   Irrigators are required to irrigate continuously once their request has been filled, regardless of natural precipitation, to keep the rotations f lowing smoothly.

   “ You have to take it when it’s available,” Solem said. “There’s no possibility for everybody to shut off if rains.”  

  H&N photo by Jill Aho

   Klamath Irrigation District ditchrider Travis Marcott removes boards used to adjust the flow through the C Canal, a branch irrigation ditch fed by the A Canal. KID ditchriders make adjustments every day to thousands of weirs, or checks, like this one.

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              Page Updated: Sunday May 23, 2010 03:12 AM  Pacific

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