EPHRATA — A crack in the concrete panels that line a main canal serving the Columbia Basin Project prompted officials to temporarily shut down some irrigation Tuesday.
Located just below Pinto Dam, north of Highway 28 in eastern Grant County, the crack poses no threat to safety. But an as-yet undetermined number of irrigators will not be getting water until the ditch can be repaired early next week, an official for the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation said.
Officials are also uncertain whether this is a vital time for any crops served by the ditch. But, “This is a better time than mid-July or August,” said Stephanie Utter, Reclamation’s Ephrata field office manager, adding, “A lot of farmers are just getting ready for the season.”
Flows in the ditch were reduced Tuesday from 7,000 cubic-feet-per-second so crews could get to the collapsed concrete panel and determine a plan for fixing it, she said.
Utter said the cause of the crack hasn’t been determined, but “It’s not malicious or anything like that.”
And while not all of the 671,000 acres served by project canals are impacted, Utter did not know how many would be.
“We don’t know the extent of what will be shut down until we can further assess the damage and get a timeline,” she said.
Disruptions in irrigation service later this week will directly affect some farmers receiving water directly from the Main Canal, and the West and East Low canals, she said.
People receiving water from the Quincy-Columbia, the East Columbia and the South Columbia Basin irrigation districts should also expect water deliveries to be reduced or interrupted through early next week.
The crack was noticed and reported Monday. Utter said it’s very unusual. “I don’t think we’ve ever had an incident on this stretch of the canal, that I can recall.”
She added that dewatering the massive ditch and then turning water back in will probably take more time than making the actual repairs, “just because it’s so massive. It’s so big.”
K.C. Mehaffey: 997-2512