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Aging irrigation line fails in Ogden, stirring fears of harm to farmland

By Ryan Aston - | Jun 14, 2024

Ryan Aston, Standard-Examiner

Work takes place Thursday, June 13, 2024, near 12th Street and Canyon Road, where an irrigation pipe failed days earlier.

OGDEN -- Farmers in parts of Weber County are worried about the survival of their crops following an irrigation pipe failure late last week.

After the ground began to sink near 12th Street and Canyon Road last Thursday, emergency crews from Ogden City excavated the area to uncover the faulty line, which belongs to the nonprofit Western Irrigation Co. Dennis Illum, Western Irrigation's president, told the Standard-Examiner that the line provides irrigation and secondary water to what could be as much as 20,000 acres of land in locations across the county.

"It provides water for agriculture, farming, and that goes into Plain City, Farr West, Harrisville and parts of Ogden for the farmers," Illum said. "Then it's also tied into the secondary systems in those same cities."

The line break came as a result of the age of the pipe and the irrigation system at large, according to Illum, who said its repair has been difficult due to its proximity to utility (gas and electrical) and culinary water lines, as well as the level of coordination required between the city, the irrigation company, contractors on the scene and others.

"The irrigation system was put in in the early 1900s -- 1909 -- and some of the infrastructure is still that old," Illum said. "So, a little at a time, we try and repair it and get it upgraded, but it's far more money than anybody can afford."

As of Thursday afternoon, the section of pipe that failed, located near the main head gate, had been repaired. However, the line was not yet back in full service, per Illum.

"It actually went pretty smooth," Illum said of the operation. "Our biggest problem was the fact that it's right at the beginning of a few days of hot weather and everybody wanted water, right? And we have to put concrete patches in the pipe and they have to cure. ... We'll turn the canal on this afternoon, put the water in the canal, and then it takes about three days for the full stream to get from the head gate where we open it to the end of the canal."

In some areas, there was an ability to divert water from other sources. Not everyone, though, has had access to the water they need.

John Chugg is affiliated with Western Irrigation and has 72 acres of corn -- in addition to hay and pasture -- in the Farr West/Harrisville area. He told the Standard-Examiner that his crops were in danger of drying up.

"It's hard to stress the importance unless you're trying to make your livelihood off of it," Chugg said. "It's frustrating as a farmer when you don't have water."

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