Diversion Rehabilitation – Electric Light Ditch Company

Location: Big Timber, MT
Project Type: Water Resource Management, Environmental, Surveying

Appropriated on March 1, 1884, Electric Light Ditch (Ditch) has the right to divert 25 cubic feet per second (cfs), or 1,000 miner’s inches, of water from the Boulder River.  The original water right was designated for irrigating (and other legal purposes) on lands owned by John Anderson and Alonzo Harris located on the south side of the Yellowstone River, near the town of Big Timber, Montana.  In 1896, the Big Timber Electric Light and Power Company was formed and used water from the Anderson-Harris Ditch; hence its current name Electric Light Ditch. The Big Timber Electric Light and Power Company merged with the Billings and Eastern Montana Power Company in 1908, and eventually consolidated into the Montana Power Company in 1912. Today, 24 users have water rights along the 5-mile long Ditch, which can irrigate a maximum of 530 acres.  Notable users include Sweet Grass County, Sweet Grass County High School, and Sweet Grass Health and Wellness Center. 

Water is diverted from the Boulder River into the Ditch via a rock diversion and headgate structure.  Due to stream energies during high flow conditions, annual maintenance was required to reconstruct the diversion structure.  Annual maintenance generally consisted of using motorized equipment to place locally derived material in the Boulder River channel.

In 2013, the Sweet Grass County Conservation District (SGCD) contracted Pioneer to compile and review existing data, conduct field surveys, and develop alternatives that would improve water delivery efficiency to the headgate during low flow conditions, minimize impact to the Boulder River, enhance fisheries habitat at the point of diversion, and maximize benefits related to cost.  We developed an assessment document that clearly described the purpose, constructability, and estimated cost for each rehabilitation option.  We presented assessment conclusions and recommendations to the Ditch users, Boulder River Watershed Association, SGCD, and the general public at a public meeting.  The selected alternative consisted of constructing a J-Hook rock vane weir to divert irrigation water to the Ditch headgate during low flow conditions, stabilizing banks upstream and downstream of the headgate, and cleaning the ditch.

Pioneer prepared a Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation (DNRC) Renewable Resource Grant and Loan (RRGL) application that was sponsored by the SGCD.  Funding for project was authorized in 2015 during the 64rd session of the Montana Legislature. We completed final analysis and design, prepared permits, developed a bid package, and assisted SGCD in selecting a contractor. Construction was completed in April 2017.

 Project Dealt with

  • Project Management
  • Site Reconnaissance
  • Field Surveys
  • Alternatives Analyses
  • Conceptual Designs
  • Grant Preparation
  • Engineering Design
  • Drawings/Specifications
  • Regulatory Permitting
  • Cost Opinions
  • Construction Bid Preparation
  • Construction Administration/Inspection
  • As-Builts
  • Final Reporting

Pioneer designed, permitted, prepared a grant, and oversaw the construction of a SGCD-sponsored project to rehabilitate the Electric Light Ditch diversion.

Electric Light Ditch diversion
Electric Light Ditch diversion