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Lethbridge Herald Newspaper Archives

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Lethbridge Herald, The (Newspaper) - September 25, 1971, Lethbridge, Alberta ______Snlurdoy, J.plemb.r 5J, 1971 THE IETHBRIDGI HMAID 21 Waterton Dam and Waterton River spillway starts project Belly River chute through Belly River back into irrigation system Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Administration Meeting the challenge of water demands By RIC SWIHART Staff Writer Electrically-operated gates The Prairie Farm Rehabili- tation Act was passed by the federal government in April 19C5 to deal with the imme- diate problems of drought and depression then blighting agri- culture on the Canadian Prai- ries and this primary thought .lias resulted in a booming ag- ricultural industry for Canada to this day. PFRA work in southern Al- berta began in 1946 with the start of construction of the St. Mary Irrigation Project that was designed to allow a larger proportion of the water flow- ing in the Waterton, Belly, St. Mary and Milk Rivers for irri- gation use. The federal governmenl agreed to construct the main supply reservoirs and connect- ing canals and the province agieed to supply the irrigation I distribution system. Full development of Canada's share of the water resources in these international streams is now completed, providing de- pendable water supplies to eventually extend irrigation to acres of land between Spring Coulee and Medicine Hat. The key structure on the pro- ject is the St. Mary Dam, lo- cated 35 miles southwest of Lethbridge. The dam, which creates a 17-mile long reser- with a storage capacity of acre-feet, is made of compacted earth and is 202 feet high and a half mile long. The second stage of develop- ment, which was to control the waters of the Belly River, was .'started in 1956. This involved the construction of a diversion weir to divert the Belly River, from there to the Belly River. and has a total capacity construe-! Construction of the" Waterton j acre-feet of water. ance of 27 miles tion included the damming of j Dam started in 1958. It is ISO i A five-mile canal with a This extended irrigation to; the Waterton River and a canal i feet high and three miles long i acity of cubic feet and a canal from the river to j another acres, he St. Mary Reservoir, a dis-j The final phase of cap- per Inverted siphon spanning Pine Pound Coulee of second, dug from the Waterton reservoir to the Belly River re- servoir connects three rivers. .Since the Walerton Dam is the furthest west in the local control for PFRA out of Leth- bridge, it is the starting point for a verbal tour. Located 25 miles south of Fort Macleod. the main canal starts from the east bank not far from the dam proper. It moves easterly five miles to the Belly River Chute which drops wa'ter 130 feet to the Belly River. Here the water is trans- ported one mile in the river to be deposited back into the can- al system for the trip through the Blocd Indian Reserve to the St. Mary Reservoir. The water from this reser- voir is delivered through a con- crete tunnel 17 feet in diameter to a main outlet canal a short distance from the dam. Three miles east of the out- let, the water passes through a double inverted siphon to cross the deep Pine Pound Cou- lee. Eight miles further, the water enters Jensen Reservoir with a capacity of acre- feet. After leaving the reservoir, the water tumbles down Taylor Chute which is the largest drop structure in the project. Twelve miles further east, the water enters Ridge Reser- voir, located seven miles south of Raymond. This reservoir has a capacity of 100.000 acre-feet and represents the spot where the provincial control takes over from federal jurisdiction. From this reservoir, all the irrigation water is taken and from tlu's point all future ex- pansion plans will originate. Photos by Ric Swihart Walter Kerber St. Mary Dam spillway capacity cfs is fisherman's dream System expansion on PFRA plans The Prairie Farm Rehabili- tation Administration has blue printed and charted all the areas in southern Alberta which the present allotment of water j allows, and if the total plan of! project expansion is followed j to completion, the number of I irrigated acres in the south will: be more than doubled. At present the PFRA pro- ject services acres through nine land tracts. The expansion plans call for an add-1 ilional acres which can be developed: .the HigHine, Lethbridge Southeast and Biood Reserve projects. The Highline Project is the next expansion the PFRA will do and it will involve acres reaching from Chin to Bow Island in a strip adjoining immediately south of land cur- rently irrigated. Bob Wells, manager of the i Lethbridge Branch of PFRA! said the construction design is complete with demand for the j water the deciding factor for a j start on construction. i "This project could come I fairly quickly if dry conditions arc he said. "Trie j development of irrigation do- i pends on weather." The Highline project will mean constructing a siphon across the Chin Coulee about six miles south of Barnwcll and constructing the necessary can- al which will run in a south- easterly direction to five miles north of Foremost mid then turn directly north, ending five miles cast of Bow Island. Included in the plan are four reservoirs. Tlie longer range plans call for the Lclhbridge Southeast, project to release another acres to irrigation. This is the area that would service the New Dayton, Warner. Skiff- Foremost, Elzikom region, north to the proposed High- line project. Utilizing the Ridge Resevoir seven miles south of Raymond, a canal would be constructed east to McNah and over to Weston Lake, south of Tyrrell Lake. Through a system of res- e r v o i r s to be constructed through Verdigris Coulee. Another canal would be built east for 15 miles and then north for 15 miles and then east to 12 miles south of Nemis- cam. An off-shoot of this proposed project is the question of United States Canadian water use. If Canada and the U.S. ever sign an international water agree- ment, this project could be util- ized as a method of turning the U.S. share of the Waterton- Belly River water back to the U.S. A canal would have to be i built from the last resevoir to the Milk River to meet up with a U.S. irrigation system 20 I miles southeast of the town of I Milk River. The "share" would come from Waterton Dam, through the entire PFRA sj-stem, and back into the U.S. The plans call for acres of land proposed for de- velopment on the Blood Indian Reserve. This land will have to be serviced from the main canal between the Waterton and St. Mary's dams. The 660-foot Belly River chute drops water 130 feet into river basin ;