Engineering Support Through an NACD Technical Assistance Grant

By Katrina Vaitkus

Thanks to NACD Technical Assistance Grants, Shavano Conservation District (SCD) in Montrose, Colorado, was able to ease the engineering backlog in their local Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) office. David Olivero was brought on as an engineering technician with the district’s first grant in 2018 and was one of two engineering technicians in the office.

“The funds that were made available for our engineering technician have provided our office with much needed engineering help,” said Penny Bishop, SCD District Manager.

In the first year alone, Olivero was able to help with 28 of the approximately 70 projects the team tackled. Since their area is a direct tributary to the Colorado River, efficient water use is strongly encouraged to keep their soils’ salinity out of the watershed. Many projects are irrigation related and include components like gated pipes, sprinkler systems and subsurface drains.

Completed siderolls on Wise’s property, waiting for sprinkler nozzle installation. Shown in center are the mover carriages of the sideroll, which house a small motor and gear chain system to move the sideroll between irrigations.

“The majority of projects are gated pipe installations,” Olivero said. “With the installation of gated pipes and with the education of farmers and ranchers on the best use of gated pipes, we’re meeting lot of the objectives as far as keeping salinity out of the watershed.”

One of the many successful projects that sticks out to Olivero was a sideroll irrigation project completed in the Bostwick Park area. The landowner, Tom Wise, had been flood irrigating his fields for years, but his irrigation was spotty, and he knew he needed to change his system. The pressurized sideroll irrigation system proposed by NRCS had an inlet structure and bubbler to clean the water, with a pumping system to convey the water to two siderolls to irrigate.

Lines connecting to Wise’s sideroll supply.

“It is one of the most efficient ways to irrigate,” Olivero said. “So, anytime a landowner is willing to do something like this, I think it’s marvelous because I really think they’re using their water a lot more wisely.”

Although Wise has experienced some ‘growing pains’ in learning how to use his new system, he comments on how please he’s been with the results. Thankfully, SCD and NRCS have been with him every step of the way to help him navigate through the problems he has experienced.

Projects like the one on Wise’s operation are crucial in helping the district and NRCS reach their salinity reduction goals. In 2019 alone, they saw a salt savings of over 850 tons. That amount plays a huge role in improving their watershed and water quality for those downstream, and future projects are sure to improve it even further.

To learn more about NACD’s Technical Assistance grants or to read other TA success stories, visit the NACD Technical Assistance Grants webpage.

Tags: Technical Assistance

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