Alta irrigation district ditches get a makeover

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Ditch plow making a second pass through the ditch. Ditches overgrown with weeds may require up to four passes. Courtesy / Alta Irrigation District

The Alta Irrigation District completed the 2020 irrigation season around mid-September and their crews started straight into the remaining months of the 2020 maintenance season. Although the weed-overgrown ditches were currents in Alta, recent district activities suggest that this may not be the norm in the future.

Based in Dinuba, Alta, which serves eastern Fresno County, northern Tulare County (east and south of the Kings River) and part of western Kings County, covers approximately 130 000 acres. Runoff from the Kings River is channeled to land through a network of interconnected irrigation facilities such as earthen and concrete lined ditches and pipelines. In total, there are about 250 miles of ditches (about 500 miles of embankment) and 80 miles of pipelines. The 12-person district field team can have around 1.5 months in wet years (2017) to 10 months or more in dry years (2015) for maintenance activities.

Maintenance activities in September focused on mechanical weed removal from ditch embankments and control structures as well as plowing small ditches with a top width of approximately 15 feet or less. The district’s weeding efforts are visible along the arteries of Dinuba town which include avenue 416 and road 80 and in Sultana (avenue 416 between roads 100 and 104). Regarding the plowing activity (see figure below), District General Manager Chad Wegley noted that more than 10 miles of ditches were plowed for a period of three weeks after the end of the flow of water, which is a record.

“Our ditch plow is the most cost effective way to clean small ditches and, when paired with our revamped spray program, the ditches will not be overgrown with weeds,” Wegley said.

In 2017, the district was busy setting a record for the longest water stroke, 216 days, in the past half-century, which spurred maintenance activity – the removal of sediment from the Traver Canal. (see figure below) – through 2018. Since 2017 and 2019 were years of wet water with record water flows, district teams have reduced maintenance activities in small windows to opportunity that only lasted a few months each time. “The district will continue its ongoing maintenance activities and expand its efforts to include replacing pipelines, installing slip valves on service lines and rehabilitating structures,” Wegley said. “Today’s maintenance activity reflects the planning efforts of years past and this process will be repeated as the district seeks to expand maintenance opportunities. “

“A 25% increase in headstock deflection during wet years, a five-fold increase in slide valve installations and increased maintenance activity are all tangible evidence that Alta’s board of directors is engaged. and fulfills its oversight obligations, ”Wegley said. “Changes of this magnitude do not happen by chance; they are the product of active management by leaders within an organization.


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