March ND Water - Garrison Diversion O&M Team Excels
By Kimberly Cook
While hauling rock, building roads, pouring concrete and spraying for noxious weeds were completed as part of the Garrison Diversion Conservancy District’s (Garrison Diversion) Operations & Maintenance (O&M) work plan in 2021, several other special jobs were completed by these highly-skilled individuals throughout the year.
Tasked with keeping the facilities in the Garrison Diversion Unit (GDU) in excellent working condition, Garrison Diversion employs 19 talented O&M employees with multiple areas of expertise to accomplish this tall order. The McClusky Canal, New Rockford Canal and Snake Creek Pumping Plant (SCPP) are part of the GDU’s principal supply works.
Garrison Diversion works closely with the Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation), and completes O&M work under an Operations, Maintenance and Replacement contract with the agency.
Garrison Diversion maintains multiple office locations in Carrington, McClusky, New Rockford and the Snake Creek Pumping Plant. Its O&M staff boasts an extensive skillset and includes a professional engineer, master electricians, certified diesel mechanic, painting and coating specialists, vegetative management specialists and multiple heavy equipment operators.
In addition, the majority of full-time O&M employees have their CDL (commercial driver’s license). A safety coordinator promotes safety procedures and implements a comprehensive safety program to ensure a safe work environment for all employees. All of Garrison Diversion’s O&M crew members have high levels of expertise for their jobs and maintain a high standard of work.
“We have some very talented and capable individuals on our staff. From carpenters to mechanics and electricians, they all do high quality work,” O&M Superintendent Darren Murray says.
The crew maintains a large fleet dozers, loaders, backhoes, trucks, excavators and many specialized pieces that allow for work in a variety of situations.
In 2021, O&M workers accomplished many tasks, performing routine maintenance and special jobs. Routine maintenance of GDU facilities is necessary to keep them in good shape. Routine tasks include weed control, water operations and road maintenance. The McClusky and New Rockford canals must also be maintained in order to operate properly.
Water is delivered through the McClusky Canal each year to be used for livestock watering, water for wildlife mitigation areas, water quality improvements, irrigation, recreation, and fish and wildlife. Last year, approximately 40,500 acre-feet of water was delivered through the McClusky Canal.
In addition to regular canal maintenance, employees continued a major reconstruction project that started in 2016 to repair a one-mile stretch of the canal side slope, from mile marker (MM) 22 to MM 23.
The failing side slopes have reduced the water flow in the canal downstream of MM 22, approximately seven miles south of Turtle Lake. While the McClusky Canal was designed for 2,000 cubic feet per second (cfs) flows, under 100 cfs is flowing through at the slide area, reducing the amount of available water to irrigators downstream and presenting challenges in maintaining the Chain of Lakes at the desired elevations. The work is being completed in cooperation with Reclamation.
O&M workers are flattening the currently failing 2-to-1 side slope to a more stable 4-to-1 slope. Overall, a total of
2.4 million cubic yards is estimated to be moved over the course of five to six years. In 2021, approximately 675,000
cubic yards of spoil material were removed from the area to stabilize the slope. To date, close to 90% of the spoil has
Once the spoil is removed and slope laid back, silt fence is installed and the area seeded to help with erosion control and establish vegetation. On average, five to seven workers are working the slide area. Four tractors pull two pans each, a skid steer operator removes large rock and, on occasion, a dozer operator is on-site. This major project is important to enhancing the overall function of the McClusky Canal.
Garrison Diversion assists with Reclamation’s Chain of Lakes Recreation Area, a popular summer recreation destination along the McClusky Canal. In 2021, O&M staff constructed a camp host site at East Park Lake, one of four lakes in the Chain of Lakes Area, at Reclamation’s request. The site will provide a location for a camp host to live through the summer season to supervise the Chain of Lakes Recreation Area.
Rock hauling is a time-consuming activity for O&M employees but necessary in order to have materials on hand for future projects. Last year, 891 truckloads of field rock were hauled to multiple stockpile locations. The rock is purchased from area landowners and hauled throughout the year to Garrison Diversion’s right-of-way, where it is screened to remove sediment and then sorted. The field rock is used for a variety of projects, but mainly for erosion control along the McClusky Canal.
Another structure that necessitated repair was the wing wall on the discharge structure at Lake Audubon. This is where water is released when water is pumped from Lake Sakakawea into Lake Audubon. During a recent winter, a pressure ridge formed in front of the wing wall, and a high wind pushed the ice into the wing wall, breaking the concrete. The elevation of Lake Audubon was lowered and so Garrison Diversion could repair the damage. Unfortunately, as Reclamation and Garrison Diversion completed further inspections, additional cracks were found in the concrete below the water surface, jeopardizing the structure. Garrison Diversion completed a temporary repair, then shored up with rip rap. Reclamation is working to determine a permanent fix.
Expertise in canal maintenance, earth-moving and other construction areas enables the O&M staff to assist federal and state government agencies such as the North Dakota Department of Water Resources (DWR), Reclamation, North Dakota Game & Fish,and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. These partnerships are beneficial to everybody involved.
“We get a lot of compliments on the work we do, from how clean we keep an area, to the efficiency of the crew, from the other agencies we do work for or people stopping at our worksites,” Murray says. “It’s nice to hear from an outside perspective on how good a project looks or how well we’re doing.”
Both the routine O&M work and the special projects completed by Garrison Diversion employees are vital parts of maintaining the GDU features. The purpose of these features varies from supplying water for irrigators to sustaining recreation areas and wildlife management locations. Though the functions of the GDU features vary, the importance of maintaining them remains the same.