EMMETT – Problems with an aging irrigation canal east of Emmett have forced officials to drain the water and fix the leak.
The move comes after two major rock slides covered State Highway 52 last week. Officials believe water seepage from the canal is responsible, and say the leak is causing the surrounding hillside to weaken and crumble.
ROCK SLIDE BURIES HIGHWAY
Last Saturday, a section of state Highway 52 near Emmett was blocked after rocks and earth rained down from the hillside above the North Side Canal. Another slide happened nearby the next day.
Mike Mitchell is the superintendent of Emmett's Irrigation District. Mitchell believes water has been continually seeping through the concrete canal and contributing to the problem.
“We found where water was making its way through pores in the concrete,” Mitchell told KTVB.
Mitchell said while the canal is a solid structure, it was built nearly a century ago.
“It's been here a hundred years," Mitchell told KTVB. "They built this ditch, and they never figured there would be a highway underneath it.”
Workers drained and began repairs on the canal's concrete Tuesday morning.
“When they are done sandblasting it, we are going to spray this AquaLastic product on it and hopefully have water back on by Friday,” said Mitchell.
Mitchell said the hillside below the canal also collapsed twice last summer, and was also repaired. At that time, workers believed they had corrected the issue.
The repair is scheduled to be completed Thursday, and water should begin filling it on Friday.
"We'll be monitoring the situation, and basically we'll be turning on the water so farmers can get caught back up," Mitchell said.
WORK COULD IMPACT FARMERS
Since June is a critical time for agriculture, the water shortage caused by draining the canal could be detrimental to the roughly 1,000 farmers it serves.
“It's not good; it's risky,” said Mitchell, describing the project.
Emmett farmer Jim Standley serves as the chairman of the Emmett Irrigation District Board. Standley says the repairs need to happen soon, because some crops are in need of water right now.
“There is a lot of corn that needs water right now, real bad,” said Standley, who added "We are fighting really hard to make that water come on as quick as possible."
It’s a tough situation for the Emmett Irrigation District. According to Mitchell, while the farmers need the water, there is still a potential safety hazard looms for drivers on Highway 52.
“We have to balance the risk of that to the concern of something worse happening, which I don’t think is going to happen, but something worse could happen,” said Standley.
Standley said if the current work to fix the leak doesn’t work, they'll have to consider further options like moving the ditch, tunneling, and possibly using siphons.
Standley said the discussion on what to do is ongoing, and the final repair could cost a lot of money.
“Everybody talks about raising taxes," Standley said. "We don't want to raise taxes but of course we are going to have to on this deal here."
The Emmett Irrigation District board meets on the first Tuesday of every month. Standley said the board will address the leak in July. There is no emergency meeting planned on the issue.