Gary Locke tours irrigation system



THRALL, WA- Tromping through a snow-covered pasture, Gov. Gary Locke saw firsthand efforts by local and federal agencies to conserve irrigation water and save salmon. Locke and his entourage, which included Department of Agriculture Director Valoria Loveland, Reps. Janéa Holmquist and Bill Hinkle, met with members from the Kittitas County Conservation District, local farmers and ranchers and members of other federal and state agencies Monday afternoon to tour Thrall Road farmland belonging to John Eaton in which a new irrigation water diversion plan is in the works.

Through Eaton's efforts with the Conservation District, two surface water diversions from Wilson Creek will be consolidated into one screened pump diversion. That water will be piped to a new pivot sprinkler irrigation system covering 140 acres of pasture and hay fields. Officials estimate water savings at about 4 cubic feet of water per second or 1,176 acre-feet per year, Conservation District Manager Anna Lael said in a press release.

"I'm looking down the road someday. This project will be part of it," Eaton told the group.

Eaton told the governor he anticipates saving a considerable amount of irrigation water with the new system as well as increasing production from his hay fields. He said he intends to fence off access to the creek, which wanders through his property, leaving only small openings for his cattle to drink.

Eaton's project is the culmination of numerous state and federal programs that have come together in a common goal, Lael said.

Seemingly impressed, Locke applauded Eaton's efforts in seeking out multiple funding sources and praised the numerous agencies that came together in the spirit of conservation.

"I try to recognize and encourage local solutions," Locke said. "What works here may not work elsewhere, but if people take advantage of the programs that are in place and the different pots of money that are available, they have a better chance of obtaining funds.

"Using less water more productively means more water for fish," Locke continued. "We need more projects like this in the state."

Lael said funding for Eaton's project came from the Conservation District's efficiencies program, the Natural Resources Conservation Service environmental quality incentive program, the Washington State Salmon Recovery funding board and funds from Eaton. Total agency funds received were $302,831.

"It has been a long time in coming to fruition and it's kind of exciting to see the pivots in place,"Eaton said.


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