Update: 9:30 a.m. Monday
DRYDEN — Repair crews on the Peshastin Ditch have cleared debris and shored-up banks in hopes of restoring flow today to the the first of two irrigation canals damaged Friday in a major break that flooded nearby homes.
Concrete poured to repair a more serious break on the nearby Icicle Ditch could be completed by this evening with test flows conducted Tuesday and an increased flow by Wednesday, said Tony Jantzer, manager of both the Peshastin Irrigation Ditch and Icicle Irrigation Ditch.
A rupture in the Icicle Ditch on Friday sent water cascading 300 feet below to the Peshastin Ditch, filling it with debris and eroding ditch banks, before coursing downhill to flood five homes. Irrigation to scores of orchards between Dryden and Monitor was cut off.
Update: 10 a.m. Saturday
DRYDEN — Water to orchards between here and Monitor could start flowing as early as Sunday as repair crews hurried this weekend to plug breaks in two irrigation ditches that damaged homes and cut water flow vital to the region’s pear growers just as harvest nears.
Ditch manager Tony Jantzer said water could be flowing Sunday in the Peshastin ditch and by Wednesday in the more heavily damaged Icicle ditch. He estimated repair costs for both ditches at about $20,000.
Five homes were flooded and possibly hundreds of pear growers affected Friday when the Icicle ditch ruptured around noon, blocking the lower Peshastin ditch with mud and debris and sending a cascade of water from both ditches downhill through orchards.
One home on Hall Road and four homes on Pine Flats Loop Road, between Cashmere and Dryden, south of Highway 2/97 were flooded, Sgt. Kent Sisson, head of emergency management for the Chelan County Sheriff’s Office said Friday afternoon.
Orchardists on the south side of Highway 2/97 from Monitor northwest to the junction of those two routes will see water interrupted for two to five days, said Jantzer, manager of both the Icicle and Peshastin irrigation districts.
Floodwaters passed through a collection of pickers’ cottages, but didn’t dampen any living areas, according to Mike Mangas, who runs the orchards around the cottages for his father-in-law.
The incident was reported at 12:30 p.m. Responders at the scene said the Icicle Irrigation Ditch ruptured, sending water, mud and debris down to block the Peshastin Irrigation Ditch, which also overflowed, sending water cascading through orchards of ripening pears.
Jim Koempel, one of the orchardists with land and a family home affected by flooding, said the two ditches are about a quarter-mile apart. The Icicle ditch is about 300 feet higher on the hill than the Peshastin ditch.
Irrigation customers who get their water from the main Peshastin ditch could see service interrupted for two days, Jantzer said. Those supplied by the Icicle ditch could be out of water for five days.
The rupture comes as the region’s pear growers are preparing for harvest, pumping water on their trees so the fruit grows in size, Jantzer said.
“It’s a big problem,” he said. “They’re trying to put size on their pears, pushing water on them. Some, they are starting to pick now, but the later pears will definitely be affected.”
He added, “I will do my very best to get the water on in five days.”
Sheriff’s deputies closed part of Pine Flats Loop Road. Flow into the ditches was shut off shortly after the rupture, but the long, concrete-line canals take hours to completely drain. Some two hours after the incident was reported, water still poured off the quickly eroding hillside.
In the meantime, Adam and Ray Stewart, owners of Stewart Excavating, worked with excavators to try to clear the lower ditch of debris.
By about 5 p.m., the flow was starting to abate, Jantzer said, and flow had stopped over the side of the lower ditch, but it would be two to three more hours before it stopped.
Following an inspection Friday evening, Jantzer said recent rains may have weakened the earth under the concrete ditch, causing it to buckle under its own weight.
Ditch ruptures “aren’t normal, but aren’t unusual,” either according to Koempel’s wife, Sue, who watched the excavator work with her son-in-law Bill Summers.
The water flooded the basement of the orchard home of Summers and his wife, Kiffin Summers.
“It’s not just us affected. It’s all the other growers hooked to the system,” he said, taking cell phone photos of the excavation work and of water cascading off the downhill side of the lower ditch.
The incident was the largest since about 2009 when the Peshastin ditch ruptured, spilling water down the hill slightly to the east.
World reporter Mike Irwin contributed to this update.