By Trevor Busch
Providing an overview of the Taber Irrigation District’s (TID) myriad operations in 2016, board chair Tony Machacek noted water demands were high in early spring.
“The TID started moving water into the district in the last week of April and was running fully by May 4,” said Machacek, speaking at the TID’s 98th annual general meeting at the Heritage Inn. “We were coming into the year on a cautious note due to forecasted drought conditions. All our crews are to be commended for getting an early start on getting the district ready for water. The dry spring kept water demands steadily increasing with peak demands in June.”
In his review of the district’s annual report for the 2016 season, Machacek pointed out that late rains may have been welcome for some, less so for others. Total water use for the year was 84,521 acre-feet.
“July brought rain events along with severe weather warnings in our areas. Dryland crops flourished, while alfalfa producers struggled. Rain is always welcome in our area but the timing is frustrating to some. A good year followed overall with a record sugar beet crop.”
The TID’s hydroelectric operations, Irrican Power, saw generation drop by 18 per cent from record generation rates in 2015.
“Irrican had another tough year due to low power pool prices and generation because of lower than expected water demand,” confirmed Machacek. “In the next two years the first two plants will be paid out. Irrican has always been a stand-alone operation run by the three partners involved. Its operation has always covered its own costs.”
Infrastructure improvements are still ongoing, as is a focus on enhancing water quality.
“Water quality is still a high priority in the TID. One example is with the completion of our lateral 18 pipeline last spring, we left the old canal as an overflow for the pipeline and as an emergency spill for the M.D. land that drains into it. Controlled releases of flows will reduce sediment and nutrients from getting into Taber Reservoir,” said Machacek.
Machacek also highlighted scholarships that were given out by the TID in 2016 to Freek Bylsma, Tea Miyanaga, Courtney Bartosek, Lauren Machacek, and Sonya Waeckerlin.
Invasive aquatic species, namely zebra and quagga mussels, have recently been detected in Montana, posing an escalating risk to southern Alberta’s irrigation infrastructure and various watersheds.
“In November, mussel larvae were found in the Tiber Reservoir in Montana. This is about 100 miles south of us,” said Machacek. “This is getting too close to home now. Continuing support of the inspection sites at border crossings is crucial to keep this aggressive invasive creature out of our works. Education is one crucial element in preventing this very invasive water creature from getting established here in our water and infrastructure.”
Machacek also praised the efforts of retiring employees, as well as those new to the organization.
“I wish to say thank you to our retiring ditchrider, Jerry Layton. He is well known and respected by all farmers and staff (for his) many years of service. We welcomed Richard Oliver to the organization. With a background in construction and concrete, he has already proven to be a great addition.”
Machacek finished on a philosophical note, encouraging water users to preserve water quality wherever possible.
“A long time ago it was explained to me that we don’t own the water, we only borrow it for a short time. We capture it, transport it and water our crops with it. Water we have had contact with that flows through our district goes to someone else downstream. It is important to ensure the water quality leaving the district is the same as it enters.”