Irrigation Preps near Grants Pass

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NEAR GRANTS PASS, Ore. — Recent hot weather and low rainfall this spring has irrigators in Josephine County looking for water in their ditches as soon as possible. That means crews from Grants Pass Irrigation District have to clear pump intakes before water can flow.

Ever since the removal of savage rapids dam, the preparations for starting irrigation season have turned to clearing sand and gravel from pump intakes just downstream of the old dam site. That work started late last week and should be done by this Wednesday.

“The river came up 25,000 CFS, so we had a little more rock on the screens than usual. So we’ve been pushing that out of the way, and because of the heat, we got to jump things a little faster than normal, basically catch up,” explained GPID Manager Dan Shephard.

“It’s pretty much the same,” said Excavator Operator Alan Dole. “Maybe a little more, it’s really hard to judge because I think our piles last year for some were pretty much the same size.”

So what do they do with all that rock and gravel now piled on the river bank?

“Boy, once it comes out you can’t touch it! I don’t have a clue what we’re going to do with it! Usually I think, technically is hauled off to an ‘upland place’, whatever that is! But you can’t sell it, because then that becomes a mining permit, and different issues. So, it’s kind of a catch-22 hassle,” said Shephard.

Shepard says the district is fortunate to have a good water right and ample supply from Lost Creek Lake upstream. He says by the end of this week, canals should be flushed and irrigation season can begin.

Getting ready for irrigation season every years is a big project for Grants Pass Irrigation District. In the old days, they put stop barrier in on the dam. Now they have to remove sand and gravel that washed in over the winter, so it won’t clog the pump intakes that are in this concrete structure right here.

Normally irrigation season begins about May 10th, according to Dan Shepard. He hopes to have water in the ditches by this weekend.