Sidwalter considers irrigation district

The Sidwalter area may create an irrigation district to oversee and improve the delivery of irrigation water to the residents there.

Through an irrigation district, grant funding would be available for improvement to the Sidwalter irrigation headworks and canal, said tribal water engineer and Water Control board member Roy Spino.

The irrigation water for Sidwalter comes out of Mill Creek. The headworks could use improvements that would cost about $100,000, Spino told Tribal Council last week. This would help with fisheries in Mill Creek.

The irrigation canal itself could also be improved, making for a more efficient use of water. This could leave more water in Mill Creek; and ensure that all the residents who are entitled to the irrigation water actually receive the water, Spino said.

A current problem is that the canal runs dry for some of the residents. There are 54 homes at Sidwalter that could use the irrigation water, Spino said.

Spino presented to Tribal Council a draft charter for a Sidwalter Irrigation District, proposing a five-member board.

At the Council meeting, two people voiced their current opposition, or concerns about the irrigation district draft charter.

Susan Guerin said the residents need to have more input on the content of the charter. Some suggestions have not been incorporated into the draft, she said. “This needs to be fair to everyone,” she said.

Glendon Smith said the Sidwalter area already has a livestock district, creating a potential conflict of authority over the irrigation water.

Chico Holliday said improvement to the irrigation system could have many benefits, from firefighting efforts during the summer, to the 4-H livestock program.

The Water Control Board and others have been working on the Sidwalter irrigation district idea for about 18 months. Spino said that if steps are taken to establish the district, then grant funding could be available for improvements in 2017.

Tribal Council would like to see a consensus among the Sidwalter residents on the proposal before making a final decision.

“I see the need to move this along,” Councilman Orvie Danzuka said, “but we also want to make sure the residents there are in agreement.”

Council vice chairwoman Evaline Patt said it is important to make sure that all the residents who are entitled to the irrigation water share the resource equally.

Councilman Reuben Henry spoke in favor of irrigation system improvements that would keep the salmon from Mill Creek out of the irrigation ditch.

Sidwalter would be the first irrigation district on the reservation, and could serve as a model for other areas that might consider a similar approach.