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REPORT OF THE COMMISSIONER.
WORK AND FINANCES OF THE DEPARTMENT.
DISCUSSION OF NEW IRRIGATION LAW.
The twenty-first biennial session of the legislature, in 1919, repealed the acts of 1915 and 1917 which provided for the construction of irrigation pumping plants in counties west of the 100th meridian for experimental and demonstrational purposes. In the place of these acts it created a Division of Irrigation in the State Board of Agriculture, to be under the control of an irrigation commissioner appointed by the Board of Agriculture. The duties of the irrigation commissioner, as set forth in the law, are:
“(1) To gather data, information and statistics from the existing irrigation plants in the state concerning the water supply and methods of securing the same and the methods employed in applying water to crops, and he shall tabulate and preserve in available form such information - and shall publish and distribute the same from time to time; (2) to visit the site of any proposed irrigation plant in the state, upon the request of any citizen of the state, and advise as to the feasibility of installing such plant, and furnish plans and specifications therefor upon request, such visits to be made only when his actual expenses therefor are guaranteed by the person requesting such visit; (3) to operate by lease, under competitive bids, all existing irrigation plants now owned by the state of Kansas and installed by the Board of Irrigation, Survey, Experiment and Demonstration, or the state irrigation commissioner, until such time as he shall have determined the feasibility of irrigation under conditions existing at each of such plants, and all proceeds from the operation of any such plants shall be paid into and become a part of the funds herein provided, for the payment of the expenses of conducting such department; (4) to immediately take charge of all property of every kind and nature now belonging to the state of Kansas and heretofore purchased or otherwise acquired by the Board of Irrigation, Survey, Experiment and Demonstration, and the state irrigation commissioner, and shall have authority to sell and dispose of any such property, not including real estate and not necessary for carrying out the work of such department; (5) to make quarterly reports to the State Board of Agriculture, including itemized accounts of all receipts and expenditures of such depart
The passage of this act marked a change on the part of the state in its efforts to develop the water resources of Kansas for purposes of irrigation. By this action it discontinued the construction of irrigation pumping plants for purposes of experiment and demonstration. This was prompted, no doubt, by the fact that such plants have proven very expensive and have been productive of but little information regarding either the water resources of the state or the feasibility of pumping for irrigation. Usually these plants have been installed in localities where the depth to water was great and where the possibilities of securing water were remote, and at these locations neither the density of the population nor general economic conditions were such that any extensive irrigation development could be expected. Instead of limiting itself in its scope to what information it might obtain from these plants, which necessarily were few in number and often unfavorably located, the state has undertaken to work out its irrigation problems and development on broader lines by gathering information from the hundreds of irrigation plants already in operation in various parts of the state, publishing this information for the benefit of those interested in irrigation, and rendering sufficient assistance to those contemplating the installation of a plant, so that failures and unsatisfactory installations, which have been common, especially in new localities, are unnecessary. Properly administered, this law should do more to promote the development of irrigation enterprises than previous legislation has done.
The irrigation commissioner was appointed on May 29, 1919, and assumed the duties of his office on June 15.
APPROPRIATIONS AND EXPENDITURES. To carry on the work of the department the following sums were appropriated : For the fiscal year ending June 30, 1919...
$2,000 For the fiscal year ending June 30, 1920.
10,500 For the fiscal year ending June 30, 1921.
10,500 These appropriations were made in a lump sum for the expenses of the department, but besides fixing the salary of the commissioner at $3,000 per annum, the law limited him to the expenditure of $2,000 per annum for clerical help, and authorized him to use a sum not exceeding $2,500 per year for expenses incurred in cases against the Colorado ditches to prevent the diversion of water from the Arkansas river.
The expenditures made during fiscal years ending June 30, 1919 and 1920, respectively, are:
1920. Salary irrigation commissioner
$125.00 $3,000.00 Clerical help
324.00 Kansas-Colorado water controversy
943.59 Traveling expenses, supplies and help.
60.23 2,869.67 Totals
ACCOUNTS OF FORMER COMMISSIONER. When the above-mentioned acts of 1915 and 1917 were repealed the funds available for that work reverted to the general-revenue fund. The irrigation commissioner, under whose administration the work authorized by these acts was done, failed to complete the business of his department before such funds were no longer available. Various small bills had not been paid and a number of accounts due the state from the sale of seed, water, etc., had not been collected. Through the efforts of this department the 1920 special session of the legislature passed a bill which made funds available and authorized the present commissioner to pay such past-due accounts and collect any amounts due the state from the transactions of the former commissioner. Pursuant to this the following individuals or firms were paid in the amounts indicated: Union Pacific Railroad Co..
$8.11 Leonard Rewerts, Leoti
8.70 Claude Champion, Dighton
90.00 Scott City Furniture Co., Scott City.
9.00 Layne & Bowler Co., Memphis, Tenn.
48.00 Western Times, Sharon Springs
5.00 J. W. Lough, Scott City
275.10 Standard Oil Co.,,
61.42 Fitzgerald Lumber Co., Colby.
.$541.31 Collections were made from the following: J. L. Sharpe
$145.00 B. M. Norris
20.00 J. W. Lough
22.75 J. W. Lough
25.76 Ellis Short
119.00 W. D. Luke
25.00 J. W. Lough
WORK OF THE DEPARTMENT. Since its establishment this department has done engineering work and furnished plans for irrigation projects to twenty-five farmers. Seventeen of these projects consisted of topographic surveys aggregating over 1,700 acres. Ditch systems for the distribution of water were planned for this land and maps made showing the topography of the land and a plan of the ditch system. One large irrigation dam was designed and profile surveys made for two other dams. Plans were also made for three small earthen reservoirs for use in connection with irrigation pumping plants. In addition to this, the feasibility of a larger irrigation project was investigated and a report made to the interested parties.
A great many farms have been visited by the irrigation commissioner for the purpose of advising with the proprietors concerning irrigation plants which they propose to install; plants which they already have, the operation of which has been unsatisfactory, or plants which they wish to change, remodel_or enlarge. These visits have not often been made the subject of a written report, but much valuable assistance has been rendered in this manner.
Hundreds of letters have been received asking for information regarding the cost of irrigation plants, the water supply in various localities, and the feasibility of irrigation in such localities. In connection with these inquiries it is worthy of note that the greatest number do not come from those counties having the largest irrigated acreage. Almost 80 per cent of the present irrigated land is in three western counties, but less than 8 per cent of the inquiries received have come from those counties. The reason for this may be partly explained by assuming that people living in these counties, where many of the farmers are irrigating, have a ready source of information and do not need to write to the irrigation commissioner for it. Be that as it may, the most noteworthy feature of it is the fact that the interest in irrigation is general and widespread. Legislatures in the past have been wont to act on the assumption that irrigation was applicable only to about the western third of the state. Many of our laws relating to the appropriation of water for irrigation contain such clauses as these: "In all that portion of the state of Kansas situated west of the ninety-ninth meridian, all natural waters, whether standing or running, and whether surface or subterranean, shall be devoted, first, to purposes of irrigation in aid of agriculture,” or, “All waters flowing in subterranean channels and courses, or flowing or standing in subterranean sheets or lakes south of township 18 and west of the ninety-ninth meridian, shall belong and be appurtenant to the lands under which they flow or stand, and shall be devoted, first, to the irrigating of such lands.” Notwithstanding this, nearly 50 per cent of the inquiries made to the irrigation commissioner have come from east of the ninetyninth meridian. The inquiries received have come generally from all parts of the state, irrespective of the boundaries of supposedly semiarid or more humid sections. They show an increasing and more general interest in irrigation, prompted, no doubt, either by an increasing need or a better appreciation of the value of irrigation.
If there is an increasing need for irrigation the cause of it cannot be found in a decreasing rainfall or changing climatic conditions, for in the past two years Kansas has produced crops surpassing almost any previous year in value. The publication of information regarding the pumping of water for irrigation has beyond doubt created some interest. The increasing value of land and cost of labor is - also doing much to stimulate an interest in irrigation. The farmer, having to make a larger investment in his crop, can take less risk of losing it by drought. If he can make his harvests more certain or his yields greater by irrigating he is interested in knowing how. The idea that the practice of irrigation would reflect on natural advantages of the country, or would decrease its value in the eyes of a home seeker, is giving away to a better appreciation of the value of irrigation. Communities which used to resent the implication that irrigation would be profitable there are beginning to look upon the possibility of irrigation as a real asset, and land which has within its reach a water supply sufficient for irrigation purposes is becoming the most valuable land in the state.
The irrigated acreage in the older districts is being constantly increased by the addition of more pumping plants, but an analysis of the inquiries received shows that the greatest interest in irrigation development is outside of the older districts. Many localities in which little or no irrigating has been done, but which seem to have water supplies that offer opportunities for irrigation development, are becoming greatly interested in irrigation. The services of the irrigation commissioner are in the greatest demand in these newer districts and it is in them that the greatest service can be rendered. With the proper encouragement some of these localities have the possibility of developing into the most valuable irrigated districts of the state.