Evanston Ditch Company seeks grant to cover water

Shaun Sims speaks to the Evanston City Council about a grant sought by the Evanston Ditch Company. (HERALD PHOTO/Kayne Pyatt)

EVANSTON — The main topic of discussion at the March 26 Evanston City Council work session was presented by the Evanston Ditch Company. 

Evanston Director of Engineering and Planning Dean Barker began the discussion by showing a map of the open irrigation ditch that runs through Evanston from the Yellow Creek area, behind Uinta Meadows, runs underground in some areas and ends up past the Wyoming State Hospital and Grass Valley and out to the north end of town. Barker then turned the meeting over to Mike Davis, president of the Evanston Ditch Company.

Davis said he has served as a member of the ditch company board for 30 years and has been president for half of those years. Davis, Shawn Sims and Brian Deeter of J-U-B Engineering had all come to the meeting to ask the city for support in their request for grants to cover the ditch.  The city uses a lot of water from the ditch, as does the State Hospital and the local school district. Then, ultimately, the water is used as irrigation on just under 2,000 acres of farm and ranch land in the county; landowners there have had water rights since the 1800s. Davis said they lose a lot of water due to runoff and seepage.

The ditch was built in 1894, and in 1914, the Evanston Ditch Company took over its maintenance. Davis said there are leach problems and potential flooding problems when storm water is high and when residue builds up in the ditch. Grass Valley residents have had problems with water seeping into homes from the overflow. In the past, several homes in the Uinta Meadows area have also been damaged from overflow. 

Davis said the company is worried about being faced with liability from homeowners if something isn’t done to remedy the problem. In addition, if the ditch is covered, there will be less maintenance and fewer cleanup problems. Property owners would retain their water rights.  

Sims said he worked on the development of a system in Lyman, where they were losing 50 percent of their irrigation water. He said it took four years to get help from Wyoming Water Development but it was worth the effort.  

Davis said the company is run by volunteers, and everyone along the ditch who uses the water pays an assessment, but the company doesn’t have much revenue to pay for an underground system.

“The city needs to be involved in separating irrigation water from storm water,” Davis said. “The sponsor for the grant application has to be imminent domain. And, as some of the ditch is in the county, we will have to approach the county commissioners to involve them as well.”

Deeter then reviewed the process required if the grant is approved.

“There are four phases to the project,” he said. “The first phase is an environmental study, second a watershed study, third the design plan, and fourth will be construction.  We are a couple of years away from the final phase of construction.”

He said grants will cover 100 percent of the cost. He said that the application comes out in June and there are different components to the grant: environmental, flood control, irrigation and a recreation component. There would be no cost to the city, but the grant money would have to flow through the city treasury. 

The group asked the city to pass a resolution authorizing the Evanston Ditch Company to apply for the grant to cover the ditch and to put in head gates and piping.

Mayor Kent Williams and council members thanked the three for the presentation and said they will discuss it with city attorney Dennis Boal and bring it to a future meeting.

In other business, Evanston Councilman Mike Sellers brought for discussion a handout titled “Industrial Hemp: A Win-Win for the Economy and the Environment.” Sellers said the council needs to be aware of the value and potential job creation opportunity that the passing of the hemp bill will bring to Wyoming and Uinta County.  

“The state is working on purchasing $300,000 of equipment for testing the hemp when it comes through the state or is grown here,” Sellers said.

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