Bitterroot Irrigation District Searching for Funding to Replace Crumbling Infrastructure
The Bitterroot Irrigation District in Ravalli County is struggling with ways in how to fix its 106 year old irrigation system. Bitterroot Irrigation District Manager John Crowley said “their means of living” is crumbling away.
"Como Lake is a reservoir and it holds back about 38,495 acre-feet of water and that's the bread and butter that we use during the course of the summer season for the irrigators," Crowley said. "From Como Lake, we come down the ditch, and then we cross over with our large siphon, we call it siphon number one. That goes from the west side of the valley to the east side and that's where 99 percent of our irrigators are, on the east side of the valley."
Senator Jon Tester announced last week that BRID, also known as the Big Ditch, would receive a $250,000 grant from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. But NBC Montana reports there's still a long way to go to fund the $2.7 million project. For the 1,400 irrigators, it will also mean an increase in irrigation fees.
"On the east side of the river we've got the older concrete piers that were put in on the original probably 106 years ago," Crowley said. "Well, when we were doing phase one, we went over and did a site excavation on the pier on the east side. What we found that the bottom of the footing for that pier is at the water level and if that river were to ever shift, there's a chance that it would scour out."
The district has $300,000 of its own money set aside for the project. It also applied for a $125,000 state grant. But it would borrow the majority of the money which equals close to $1.7 million. The legislature will decide on the funding package in April.
Bitterroot Irrigation District Manager John Crowley: