With River Low, Irrigation Project Makes Hay

With the Mouse River expected to remain at a fairly low level this year, an irrigation project that was first used over 80 years ago will become very important.

Jim Olson takes us to the Towner area, where the Eaton Irrigation Project could help salvage this year’s hay crop for some ranchers.

This dam – and the ditches, culverts, and ponds associated with it – bring needed water to thousands of acres of hay land.

(John Rognlien, Eaton Irrigation Project Chairman) “Very important for this area – a lot of the guys depend on this hay out of this area and if you don’t get this water on here it just doesn’t grow as well.”

John Rognlien is the chairman of the Eaton Irrigation Project.

(John Rognlien, Eaton Irrigation Project Chairman) “6700 acres under the project with basically 44 landowners. You get this water on them and it makes a big difference.”

In low water years, the dam is closed, backing up water onto all of those acres of pasture, promoting a good season of growth.

(John Rognlien, Eaton Irrigation Project Chairman) “We take advantage of the water when it’s here to get these meadows going on a dry year.”
(Jim Olson, KX News) “In a dry year like this, this meadow will still have plenty of water thanks to the Eaton Project and thanks to the people who put it together almost a century ago.”
(John Rognlien, Eaton Irrigation Project Chairman) “Whoever designed this years ago was really somebody thinking outside the box.”

Rognlien says the dam was closed in February this year, in anticipation of pretty dry conditions. It was re-opened just this week to keep from flooding out too much land, but it will likely be closed again soon. The water stays on the meadows for a few weeks then the culvert gates are opened and the water is sent back into the river.

(John Rognlien, Eaton Irrigation Project Chairman) “It’s a good thing.”

Jim Olson, KX News.

There’s a per-acre tax assessed on all of the land that’s flooded to pay for the irrigation project costs.

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