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Work continues to replace irrigation ditch in Gadii'ah-Tokoi Chapter
GADII'AHI — Work continues to convert an irrigation ditch to an underground pipeline which would deliver San Juan River water to farms within the Gadii'ah-Tokoi Chapter.
Construction started on the fourth phase of the project during the week of May 1 and is scheduled to end by June 12.
Leonard Scott, construction manager for the project, said crewmembers install an average of 15 pipes a day.
"Today is a good day. The last couple of weeks the elements have been too hot or windy as heck," Scott said while personnel were positioning an 18-inch PVC pipe.
The pipeline will measure 5.5 miles and serve up to 48 farms once completed.
The project is being built in phases and as funding becomes available. The fourth section costs $525,000. It was funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and money from the Navajo Nation, San Juan River Dineh Water Users Inc. and Gadii'ah-Tokoi Chapter.
Gilbert Harrison Sr., farm board member for the chapter, said the irrigation ditch has been in operation since 1905. It was dug by hand to directly draw water from the San Juan River.
The chapter started working on converting the system after officials were notified in the early 2000s about endangered fish populations in the river, Harrison said.
That notification also resulted in the irrigation system receiving river water through a pipeline or siphon that runs under the river from the Hogback Irrigation canal.
Martin Duncan, supervisor for San Juan River Dineh Water Users Inc., said the pipeline is also a cost saving measure for the chapter because it would eliminate the need to clear debris and vegetation that grows in the irrigation ditch.
"If you have all that growth in there, it slows down the water. A lot of areas are completely engulfed in weeds," Harrison added.
Construction will also consist of turnouts so farmers can control the water's flow rate.
"Grandma doesn't have to go to the ditch to block the water off and get her shovel to dig in the mud anymore," Chapter President Harry Descheene said.
The fifth phase of the project is under design. Officials are working with the tribe to start work next spring.
Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636.