EPHRAIM – One million dollars in federal funding is on its way to the Ephraim Irrigation Company and Ephraim City who have joined together to pipe the Gobblefield Ditch and upgrade the Bureau of Reclamation owned Ephraim Tunnel.
The projects will conserve water, improve the reliability of culinary and irrigation water delivery, decrease shortages, conserve energy, increase the output of existing hydropower facilities and much more.
The Gobblefield Ditch is an open canal that carries irrigation water and also provides flood control during high runoff events. As an open canal, it loses a significant amount of water due to seepage, which reduces available agriculture water during the late summer season.
Pipe will be installed along the ditch to deliver irrigation water. Seven turnouts will be installed along the pipeline to deliver water to small regulating ponds, preserving not only water delivery but also flood control.
“The estimated water conserved annually by piping the Gobblefield Ditch is 1,360 acre-feet.” explained Layne Jensen, FCE project manager. “With the average water supply for the ditch at 3,230 acre-feet, this means a 42 percent savings of water through improving the ditch alone.”
The Ephraim tunnel is failing and any major collapse could prove to be catastrophic. The tunnel is a major water conveyance facility for both the irrigation company and the city.
Canals on the eastern slope of the mountain capture runoff that is conveyed through the tunnel to irrigation company shareholders. Ephraim City owns springs on the east side of the mountain and the water from the springs, 65 percent of the city’s water supply, is conveyed through the tunnel in a culinary pipeline.
Improving the tunnel will enhance the tunnel’s dependability, restore the flow capacity and protect the conveyance of irrigation water and culinary drinking water.
In addition, the tunnel affects the city’s four hydropower plants as water comes through the tunnel and generates hydropower. “Failure of the tunnel would significantly impact the amount of hydropower produced by Ephraim City.” said Bryan Kimball, Ephraim City engineer.
“When the project is complete, the restored flow capacity of the tunnel should increase the water available for hydropower generation.”
The last three years have been classified as moderate to severe drought in Sanpete County. Drought reduces the time in which a sufficient water supply is available and further reduces the amount of late season water.
Eliminating seepage losses by piping the Gobblefield Ditch will reduce the drought impacts. The improved water supply will not only increase crop production during the first two cuttings, but it makes a third cutting a possibility.
The Water Resources Master Plan for Sanpete County identifies that water shortages in the agricultural sectors are as high as 30 percent on normal years and 50 percent on dry years. “Water shortages are experienced regularly by shareholders, and these water shortages have a detrimental economic impact to the water users.” stated Mike Larsen, Ephraim Irrigation Company president. “The restored capacity of the tunnel will improve the water supply to all shareholders as well as the city hydroelectric generators. The water supply for shareholders in the Gobblefield Ditch will be improved. Also, the project will preserve a significant portion of the culinary and irrigation water supply, thus reducing the need to pump from the aquifers.”
With Utah being the second driest state in the country, water conservation projects are widely supported throughout the state. In addition, Federal funding is in place to assist with conserving and managing water. The Bureau of Reclamation WaterSMART (Sustain and Manage America’s Resources for Tomorrow) Program provides funding grants to projects that work to conserve and use water more efficiently, increase the use of renewable energy, improve energy efficiency, benefit endangered and threatened species, facilitate water markets, or carry out other activities to address climate-related impacts on water or prevent any water-related crisis or conflict.
Reclamation recently announced the WaterSMART Water and Energy Efficiency Grants for FY2015 (http://www.usbr.gov/WaterSMART/docs/2015/fy2015WEEGprojects.pdf) and the Ephraim team received $1 million out of the total of $5.6 million awarded in the State of Utah.
Approximately 18% of the newly released grants in Utah went towards these Ephraim projects. Franson Civil Engineers has assisted the Ephraim team with funding acquisition, permitting, and preliminary engineering. Engineering design and environmental compliance work will be done this year. Installation of the ditch pipeline is anticipated to be complete by April 2016, in time for the next irrigation season. As to the tunnel, the work is to be completed in two phases. The cleanup and stabilization of the tunnel is expected to occur in the fall of 2015, with final improvements (construction) occurring in the fall of 2016 and possibly early 2017.
“FCE has successfully assisted our clients with numerous canal piping and water conservation projects across the state.” said Layne Jensen. “In 2012, we successfully completed the rehabilitation of the Fairview Canyon Tunnel on behalf of the Cottonwood Gooseberry Irrigation Company. Work on that project was performed in phases to accommodate funding availability and to keep water available to irrigators. Standard design methods were put aside as the cost exceeded the project budget and would not allow rehabilitation of the entire tunnel. FCE established a unique rehabilitation method that could be accomplished by a resourceful local contractor. The project was completed under budget.” The Ephraim Tunnel is very similar in nature to the Fairview Tunnel, allowing for the use of knowledgeable engineering solutions from the prior project. As stated by Lynn Anderson, current President of CGIC, “We realize the degree of difficulty with this project. FCE proved themselves as an invaluable asset by helping see this project through. We are extremely pleased with the results of the tunnel’s rehabilitation and I highly recommend FCE.”
The Ephraim team is proactively working on water storage options to keep water flowing in Sanpete County. We will continue to follow up as we learn more about the multiple efforts being made by the Ephraim team to save water supplies for surrounding areas.