District weighs water usage by Westside Irrigation District


Staff reporter

Should the Big Horn Canal Irrigation District (BHCID) allow Washakie County’s Westside Irrigation District (Westside) use the canal to transport water to irrigate 8,800 acres? That is the question that members of BHCID will be voting on at the district’s annual meeting at 1:30 p.m., Feb. 5, at the Manderson Town Hall. Westside is proposing to pay the canal district $200 an acre for the use of the canal to transport water to the 8,800 acres. The water BHCID uses is from Boysen Reservoir in Fremont County. Westside will get water from both Boysen and the Big Horn River. Half of the water will go through the canal’s head gate, north of the Boy’s School near Worland. The other half will go through a new pumping system at Rairdon. Westside would be paying for the new system should the proposal pass.

BHCID President Richard Russell said, “The canal is in need of updates and repairs to the tune of $7 million to $10 million. The infrastructure is 100 years old. The board currently has a $1 million project they are working on. It is for a waste way at 15 Mile. The state has provided funding that is two-thirds grant and one-third low interest loan to finance the project.”

He added that as a district member, not the president, one of the considerations is “do I want to pay for these repairs myself or get someone else to help pay for them.”

BHCID Commissioner Daryll Wills said he has had members of the canal district express concerns to him about the proposal. Those are “can the canal carry the additional water?” “If there is a drought, who will control the water?” “The Big Horn River water could bring contaminants into the canal when a portion of the water is pumped from the river.” “If the canal, pipes, siphons, etc. need to be updated or enlarged to carry the additional water flow who is going to pay for it?”

Russell said there are pros and cons to the proposal. The biggest advantage is that “there will be additional money to help pay for the refabbing of the canal.” The biggest disadvantage is “what if there is a shortage of water.”

Russell indicated letters will be sent out to all the canal members inviting them to the meeting. He wants members to come and express their opinions.