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Front Page » July 8, 2014 » Emery County News » Tusher Diversion rehabilitation project on the Green
Published 962 days ago

Tusher Diversion rehabilitation project on the Green

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By Alice Wadley
staff writer

The John Wesley Powell Museum in Green River hosted an event to collect information and stories on the Tusher Diversion. Grant Carlos Smith, an archaeologist with the USDA/NRCS gave a presentation to the community.

Smith gave an early account of the settlements of what is now Green River. The Salina-Ouray mail route passed through what is now Green River from 1878-1883, the postal designation was Blake City until 1895. Early general land use maps showed sparse settlements and agriculture as early as 1881. There were five water wheels noted at the time. Mormon Apostle Francis Lyman gave a favorable report of the area indicating the presence of a post office, store and ferry at Green River City.

The Green River canal was established in the 1880s. Early farmers relied on water wheels and steam powered pumps to get water to their farms. The East side canal was established in the early 1900s and the 42 foot ditch was established in 1933.

The first attempts to divert the river required construction of a brush and rock diversion. Community involvement was a good excuse for a community picnic. Blake City Water Ditch Company took over from the early settlers in the area. A brush diversion dam and a crude system of irrigation ditches was built, which the company proceeded to improve. The need for a more permanent diversion was imminent due to the diversions being washed out from flooding.

The first permanent diversion started work in 1905 and was completed by 1907. It was constructed of heavy square-sawed timbers. The diversion measured 543 feet long and 24 feet high. This diversion was washed out by floods shortly after being built.

In 1909, work started on the Tusher diversion. It was completed by 1913. The design was by George Thurman, a German immigrant from Iowa. It was built from locally available material, cribbed logs and rock. The labor and financing was donated from the water users. The original diversion was incased beneath a concrete cap in the mid 1930s.

The Tusher Diversion is a broad-crested weir. It is a one-of-a-kind in Utah and maybe the only one in the intermountain west. It is approximately 740 feet long, 24 feet wide and 6-7 feet deep along the front wall.

Smith also gave a history of the raceways, the water wheels and the Hastings ranch. The west side raceway delivers water to the Green River canal, 42 foot ditch and the Thayn Power Plant. The raceway is aligned roughly with the 1880s gravity or Green River alignment canal. The west side raceway is approximately 40-50 feet wide by .5 mile long channel. A modern gate structure replaced the original wooden gate structure. The point of diversion for the Green River canal and 42 foot ditch are located at the extreme end of the tailrace. The Thayn power plant is also at the end of the tailrace. It uses hydraulic energy to create electricity.

The waterwheel raceway delivered water to a farm ditch located on the Hastings Ranch. The current waterwheel is a third generation structure. The first wheel was constructed in the 1880s, the next was around the 1940s and the final waterwheel in the 1970s. Water is conveyed through a pipe to a man made levee/berm on the bench above the river bottom. The wheel and on farm ditch are no longer used. The second wheel from the 1940s is adjacent to the Green River on the Hastings Ranch. It was made from dimensional lumber, metal scraps and a lot of farm savvy gumption.

Smith said one of the concerns of the NRCS is preserving the history and potential historical sites which will be affected by the new diversion project. They are building a new diversion because the old one is failing. There has recently been dangerously high water. The average flow of water is 6,121 CFS. Flows have reached upward of 48,000 CFS. Repeat high water flows have had a cumulative effect on the structural integrity of the diversion. The existing structure cannot be saved.

The irrigation infrastructure is also failing. The historic irrigation infrastructure is more than 100 years old. The USDA and NRCS is assisting with rehabilitation projects throughout the state of Utah.

The Green River Diversion Rehabilitation project is sponsored by the USDA and Green River Conservation District. The purpose is to repair damaged infrastructure following the 2010-2011 flooding. The USDA and NRCS is providing technical and financial assistance. A cultural resources survey was completed in 2012-2013 to comply with section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966. It identified eight archaeological sites within the project area. Applying the criteria for adverse effects, NRCS has determined the Tusher Diversion and the East side canal will be adversely affected by the project. Project design alternatives cannot avoid adverse impacts to the Tusher Diversion therefore a treatment plan and MOA are being drafted to mitigate the adverse effects.

The East side canal is eligible for the national register and will be affected by the project. It is included in the treatment plan and MOA.

The Hastings Ranch is an eligible site. It is in very good condition and integrity. It is not directly affected by the project but it is important to include it in the treatment plan and MOA.

There are also historical names and inscriptions from the early 20th century. These are not eligible for the register and not affected by the project.

The 42 foot ditch or Thayn Canal, established in the early 20th century is eligible for the national register due to its important contribution to the historical development of the region. It is not affected by project installation.

The Green River Canal established in the 1880s is eligible for national register, but not affected by project.

Smith went over the criterion of the National Register for the Tusher Diversion. Criterion A, the Tusher Diversion made an important contribution to agricultural and community development within the local area. Criterion B, the Tusher Diversion is not associated with any important historical figures. Criterion C, the Tusher Diversion represents a unique one-of-a-kind historical structure that illustrates the ingenuity of local farmers and their ability to create lasting infrastructure from modest means. Criterion D, there is important data recovery potential that can that can be used to support historical accounts of materials and methods used in the construction of the Tusher Diversion.

The Tusher Diversion treatment and mitigation plan consists of completing archival research and an oral history of the diversion. The NRCS also wants addition site documentation, such as photos and oral histories of the diversion. Data collection will also be done during the dismantling process.

Smith is also asking the public to find more photos of the Tusher Diversion, Hastings Ranch or historical canals. The NRCS wants to compile an oral history from first hand accounts, journals etc. to more fully document architectural characteristics of the Tusher Diversion. They hope to discover useful data during the dismantling of the existing Tusher Diversion. They want to nominate the Tusher Diversion, the Hastings Ranch, and associated agricultural infrastructure to the national registry.

The NRCS wants to meaningfully convey the importance of the Tusher Diversion, associated canals and historical homesteads to the public. They want to as closely as possible mirror the existing diversion with a safe and functional replacement structure. There are also plans to place a boat passage area to make it navigable for boaters.

To submit pictures or stories about the Tusher Diversion contact JoAnne Chandler at (435) 820-0084 or e-mail

If you would like more information about the museum, call (435) 564-3427 or visit

To view the Green River Diversion Rehabilitaion Project, draft environmental impact statement go to

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