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Raymond Irrigation District improving infrastructure during winter hiatus

Posted on March 21, 2024 by admin

By Heather Cameron
Westwind Weekly News

Jason Miller, General Manager of the Raymond Irrigation District, says the district is focused on two things in 2024: growth and sustainability.

Part of their sustainability, Miller says, is their continuous program to replace open ditches with closed, buried pipelines. That program, Miller said, is designed to save water. 

“One of the things that we do, that some of the other districts don’t do, is we do our own pipelining,” said Miller. “In the winter we install that pipeline, so our summer crew becomes our winter crew, and we have the equipment, and we install the closed pipeline systems. That’s a big advantage because we’re doing our own work, we keep our employees year-round, and provide stable jobs for them and continue to improve irrigation in our area. By the time this spring rolls around, we’ll have completed about 7,000 meters of pipeline installation.”

That pipeline, Miller said, ranges anywhere from 42-inch diameter pipe down to eight-inch diameter pipe, and the crew is excellent. The crew acts as water supervisors (otherwise known as ditch riders) in the summer that manage the water for both farmers and acreages while in the winter, they get to work with equipment and install the pipeline. 

One of the projects that the Raymond Irrigation District is involved in, Miller says, is called the Nine Mile and North Project.

“There’s a coulee that runs north and south between Raymond and Welling, and it runs north and south, and it’s called the Nine Mile Coulee,” said Miller. “Currently, we run water down that coulee, and down that ravine. Our irrigators have to pump directly out of that coulee to receive their water. We’re in the process of installing a pipeline to replace that delivery system. There will always be natural water in that coulee, but our water delivery will now be through a closed pipeline instead.”

Miller says that the project is currently in Phase Three out of the four phases that the project consists of.

“Eventually, one-third of our district will receive gravity pressure from the Milk River Ridge, which will eliminate the use of irrigation pumps for 15,000 irrigated acres. This will eliminate the need for natural gas, and electric powered pumps,” said Miller. “Power will still be needed to turn the pivots, but the actual pumping will be eliminated. That is a huge energy savings, as it requires a lot of energy to run an irrigation pump. A typical pivot system will pump around 900 gallons per minute. That’s a lot of water per minute. The system that we’re installing takes advantage of the natural landscape that we’re blessed with here. We can use the natural fall of the water from the Milk River Ridge to come down through close pipe, which will generate enough pressure to eliminate the use of those pumps. This is a huge environmental benefit for our community.”

The project, Miller said, is part of a bigger project called the Gravity Pressure System project, which has been in the works for the last 30 years and will start construction in the winter of 2026/27. 

Another project that Raymond Irrigation has in the works, Miller says, is the 8-2 Pipeline. 

“That’s to increase efficiency of water delivery and make sure water is accessible to users,” said Miller. “That’s about 3000 meters of pipeline that we’re putting in.”

All of the projects that Raymond Irrigation District does, Miller says, are to save water so they can irrigate more acres with the same or even a little less water than they’ve had available to them in the past. Four years ago, Miller says, the Raymond Irrigation District served 46,500 acres and now they service 52,000 acres along with 300 acreages, so the district has grown. The district also provides water to several municipalities, Miller says, including the Town of Raymond, the Village of Stirling, as well as number of Hutterite colonies.

An additional project that Raymond Irrigation District is involved in is that they are a 10 per cent partner in the Irrican Power Company. The Irrican Power Company, Miller says, uses the flow in the St. Mary Main Canal that runs through the district to generate power. 

“Irrican has been a great investment for the districts, especially in the last few years, as energy demands have increased and power pool prices have increased,” said Miller. Irrican has become increasingly profitable and has provided funds to the district to be able to complete projects that keep our water rate low and help us plan for the future.”

Irrican, Miller says, has three power plants along that canal: Raymond Power Plant, Drop 456 Power Plant, and the Chin Power Plant.

Raymond, Magrath, and Stirling, Miller said, were all founded on irrigation.

“One of our canals used to run right through Raymond, and that’s why Raymond was set up where it is, because it received water from the irrigation district,” said Miller. “At the time it wasn’t the Raymond Irrigation District; it was under the Alberta Irrigation and Railway Company. Then in 1925, we were incorporated under the Irrigation District Act. The farmers bought this area and the water license, and the irrigation works from the railroad company. Ever since then, irrigation districts have been working to provide water to irrigate crops across Alberta. Without irrigation, this whole area would be a desert. Southern Alberta thrives on agriculture, and that agriculture is driven by the increased economic benefits and production resulting from irrigation. Without irrigation, we would still be just a desert here; we’d be just a big dry land area. An irrigated crop can be anywhere from three to five times more abundant than a non-irrigated crop.”

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