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Front Page » June 20, 2006 » Local News » Project tour
Published 3,902 days ago

Project tour

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Millsite Reservoir is the site where the project begins. The spillway at the dam ran heavy for two-three weeks.

Well, you've heard that the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence and in the case of Ferron these days, you're heard right. Due to the completion of the irrigation system the grass is not only greener the Millsite reservoir is higher and things bode well for the future. The Ferron project has become a showcase for similar projects.

A celebration of the completion of the salinity project was held in Ferron on June 8. The many partners involved in the project came together to celebrate a cooperative effort for the good of not only the Ferron community, but many water users down stream.

The tour began at the Millsite State Park and continued around the Ferron, Clawson, Molen area to look at the project on the ground. James Nelson and Merrill Duncan served as tour guides. Roger Barton welcomed the crowd to the event. He said it was fitting to begin the tour at Millsite where the water capacity is full now. "These are the first two years with a full water right. In the past the irrigators would water through August and sometimes into September. In 1971, Millsite Reservoir was built and extended the irrigation season. Last year the irrigators watered from April-November. Millsite holds 18,000 acre feet of water and currently it has 3,600 feet of sediment. We are trying to deal with that," said Barton.

Roger Barton gives some information about the Ferron irrigation project.

Nelson began with some history of the area. He said the road originally went across the dam, but with the building of the golf course the road was rerouted. His grandpa came to Ferron in 1879 to farm. The old family home was built in 1895. A lot of his land was devoted to orchards and his apricots and pears won blue ribbons at the 1896 Chicago World's Fair. His grandfather was a subsistence farmer who also sold fruit at the coal camps in Carbon and Emery counties to earn enough money to pay his taxes. In the 1950s they went into the dairy business. "The former orchards are now hay and the canal is gone and we are farming that land. We were on the first lateral that went in," said Nelson.

Jed Behling told his secret for bringing a former alkali field into production. He said he pulls topsoil over the alkali and levels it and that helps take care of the alkali. Behling described the work they did in clearing the land of the many Russian olive trees, tamarisk and other invasive species. They worked to level the ground with a caterpillar and new ground has been brought into production. "It's just amazing to see the alkali spots disappear," said Behling, "It's just amazing what the sprinklers have done to force the alkali down and bring new fields into production."

The Ferron project contains seven laterals. Two of these are directly out of Millsite Reservoir and the others are fed by ponds. One of the miracles of the project is everyone can have water at the same time. No more taking turns and fights at the ditches like in days long past.

While the Millsite Reservoir is spilling the water users can use as much water as they need without it being counted towards their allotment. Any water not used while the reservoir is spilling runs into the Ferron Creek, the San Rafael, the Green and onto the Colorado River to be used downstream.

Much of the storage of Millsite Reservoir is also leased to Utah Power. Additional water storage is needed in the Ferron drainage. Plans are being looked at for raising Millsite dam to accommodate more water storage.

Duncan said, "The farmer's water goes so much farther now and the water is clear and usable." Duncan told the story of the early pioneers and how they built canals to bring the water to the farms, even attempting to coax the water uphill. The farmers would hitch a sharpened tree trunk to a team of horses and they would drag the tree trunk to create a canal. "This new irrigation system gives us control of the water, the dikes will no longer get washed out," said Duncan, "The final lateral is just now finishing up. Everyone is able to sprinkle without ever having to pump any water. Lines run south for 10 miles and north for 10.5 miles. Ponds are used to accommodate the farms on higher ground," said Duncan. He emphasized the pressure of the system which allows people to irrigate without pumps. The off farm part of the project was 100 percent paid for by grants. There was a cost share on the on-farm systems.

Land has been brought into production where alkali fields stood in the past.

"The agriculture in this valley could never have reached this level without cooperation. I would like to recognize the Harward irrigation people for all they did. They helped on the farms and they are good at it. They knew how to access different companies for the pipe we needed. They knew how to match all the valves on the farms to match the valves on the main system. It took a lot of effort to make everything work.

"All of the ponds are drained every fall and each of the seven laterals to avoid any damage by cold weather. The NRCS tried to route the lines so they wouldn't generate too much pressure. Everything was looked at in an economical way. The pipe size begins with 42 inch pipe down to two inch at the end of the lateral. There are 176 miles of line laid. We started in the south and worked our way north.

"In the old days we used to line the ditches with tarps and old pieces of carpet. The school's used to let the older boys out to clean the ditches. They used to get a $1 a day to clean the ditch," said Duncan.

With the new system the loss of water through seepage is eliminated. Seepage along the ditches is estimated at a 30 percent water loss. Duncan said, "By the time the water got to the end of the ditch it wasn't wet any more." Large thunderstorms also filled the ditches with sediment. Now the farmers are in control of their water. They can even spray bug killer and fertilizer through the pivots. "It's just amazing what the sprinklers can do," said Duncan.

Tracy Behling was also instrumental in the completion of the irrigation project. He said they are looking ahead to other projects to gain additional storage for the Ferron drainage. A study is being conducted now on Millsite dam. It is listed as a high hazard dam and funds are available to revamp it. The Ferron group is pushing for an additional 10,000 acre feet of storage, but talk is of an additional 5,000 acre feet and that is yet to be determined. Behling said additional water storage at Millsite could be attractive to Utah Power as they look at whether or not to put in Unit 4 at Hunter Plant. "This irrigation project has been a win/win situation for everyone involved. Once it was off the ground everyone became involved and all the right of ways were donated. We have laid 175 miles of pipe in a cooperative effort. This was the first project where all the entities were working together.

"Most of the farms are a combination of the pivots and the wheel line systems," said Behling.

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