Irrigation districts receive salinity reduction grants

A Grand Valley irrigation district has been awarded $2.8 million in federal funding to line canals and convert ditches into pipelines as part of ongoing efforts to reduce salinity in the Colorado River.

Four irrigation districts in Western Colorado will receive a total of $20.1 million in cost-share awards, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced.

“Salinity is a costly issue for water users on the Colorado River. And these four projects, when completed, will prevent more than 23,000 tons of salt from entering the Colorado River every year,” Salazar said.

Recent studies conducted by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation estimate damage from salinity in the Colorado River basin in the U.S. range from $500 million to $750 million a year and could exceed $1.5 billion annually in the future if increasing salinity levels aren’t controlled.

“High salinity levels cause a whole host of problems — from reducing farm yields to damaging municipal water systems and household pipes and fixtures,” said Reclamation Commissioner Michael Connor. “We are providing a targeted investment to Colorado projects from our Basinwide Salinity Control Program to address these serious issues.”

In addition to reducing salinity, the projects will offer the additional benefits of improving water delivery systems and creating jobs, Salazar and Connor said.

“These important projects will provide a long-term investment in our water infrastructure and will have the added benefit of creating jobs for the region,” Connor said.

The Grand Valley Irrigation Co. in Grand Junction will use the grant to line a total of about 104,000 linear feet of the Independent Ranchman, Upper Mainline and Mainline canals. The district also will replace about 4,100 feet of the Mesa County Ditch with pipelines. Construction is expected to begin this fall and conclude in 2015.

The work is expected to prevent about 1,700 tons of salt from entering the Colorado River each year.

The Uncompaghre Valley Water Users Association in Montrose received two grants worth a total of $7.4 millions to place nearly 32 miles of irrigation laterals into pipes.

The Stewart Ditch and Reservoir Co. in Paonia was awarded $6 million to place 11.5 miles of canals into pipes.

The Minnesota Canal and Reservoir Co. of Paonia received $3.9 million to place 5.2 miles of canals into pipe.