Hopes for federal salinity program grant money to improve irrigation systems in Surface Creek Valley will likely have to await another day for fulfillment.
A local effort to get at least part of a total $25 million available for salinity control grants through the Bureau of Reclamation hasn’t qualified for funding this year.
Orchard City Irrigation District (OCID) board member Jan Gage of Orchard City said that grant applications submitted for local irrigation improvements under the salinity program last fall failed to provide enough salt removal benefit to qualify for funding.
“We turned in five grant applications which, if we had been awarded, would have taken more than half the total dollar allotment,” Gage said. “Unfortunately, our projects were deemed not competitive (not enough salt removed from the Colorado River) for the cost of our projects. One of our applications was also determined not to be technically sufficient.”
Gage explained it is still possible that one of the local grant proposals could be accepted if funds aren’t claimed by the top applicant by the March 1 deadline.
She explained one other setback suffered by the local grants effort. “We were late getting our salt load numbers. It turned out that the Surface Creek Valley had to be completely mapped before that process could even start. Our ditches had been mapped some years previously, but there were no electronic records. As you can imagine, due to the extreme complexity of our systems, the ditch mapping was a lengthy process in itself.”
Gage and her committee worked with Harward Irrigation Systems of Springville, Utah, on the grant applications. Proposed work would involving piping of ditches on the OCID, Butte, and Fogg systems.
Gage provided the DCI with a narrative describing two years of efforts by her committee to secure available grant funding for water-conserving irrigation improvements in Surface Creek Valley. Gage’s narrative follows:
“Two years ago, at the OCID annual meeting, I was asked to chair a committee to see about raising the level of the Fruitgrower’s dam by 18 inches to allow for more storage.
“I selected Bert Sibley from the Butte board and Tom Huerkamp (because of his extensive knowledge of water and grant processes) to serve with me on the committee.
“We started attending every available meeting related to water, conservation, etc. We have literally attended many hundreds of hours of meetings and training in the last two years.
“We soon determined that the idea of increasing the Fruitgrower’s storage capacity was literally “dead in the water” before it could even start. So we abandoned that idea and presented the board with an idea to work on conservation instead.
“When we learned about the BOR’s salinity mitigation program, we decided to pursue that path as it would give the BOR what they are looking for in terms of less salt into the Colorado River while providing a way to conserve water for our users in Orchard City.
“We selected Harward Engineering to work with us from an approved list provided by the Bureau. The idea was that Harward would also handle our construction if we were awarded grant dollars by the BOR.
“We started very late on this project, which had an application due date in mid-November, 2012. Because we were so new to the process, we had to wait for ditch mapping and salt load results from the Bureau and so we were unable to get started with the design and engineering until much too close to the application due date.
“Getting salinity money from the BOR is an extremely competitive process. Awards are based primarily on how little money you require to remove the largest amount of salt from the inflows to the Colorado River. Competitors for this money are from multiple states, not just Colorado. On this particular FOA (Funding Opportunity Announcement) there was about $25 million to be spread across the various states.
“One of our five projects is, however, on a waiting list and may yet get funded if other entities which were awarded the funds decide not to take their grants. This actually does happen.
“In the interim, we have started to look into ways to reduce the cost of our projects for the next available funding in two or three years.
“We are looking at things like moving right of ways, doing laterals as separate projects, etc. It is our goal to be ahead of the game for the next funding now that we know so much more about the process, scoring, etc.
“We are already working on potential funding through various conservation organizations to help complete these smaller projects.
“Our current system wastes water in many ways, including evaporation, percolation, trees along our ditches that literally drink hundreds of gallons every day, as well as just plain leaking over the top or out of the side of our ditches in ways that do not benefit crops.
“We are extremely concerned about accomplishing our conservation goals as it looks like we are having another very short water year. If we, as a community, don’t work together to conserve water, our rural, farming environment as we know it will be gone. We must find a way to be successful at bringing our antiquated irrigation system up to date so that our farmers and residents can successfully farm, garden and landscape with the reduced water supply.
“Our committee had scheduled about 20 hours of irrigation and conservation meetings just in one recent crazy schedule to keep on track to have success.”blog comments powered by Disqus