Ice hits Shirley pumping plant

 By Kay Braddock

The Buffalo Rapids District 2 Irrigation Project didn’t go unscathed during this season’s ice jams.

As ice blocks neighboring the three pumping plants located within the district along the Yellowstone River continue to melt, B R employees have been able to go in and assess some of the damage done. 
The Shirley pumping plant, the furthest upstream station, located 
about 20 miles west of Terry, endured the most damage, according to B R District 2 project manager Ray Strasheim.
“It doesn’t look very good,” Strasheim said.
An addition to a wing wall on the upstream side of the intake has been dislodged from the remaining wing wall. The addition was installed last year to facilitate the setting up of fish screens this year. 
Before and after pictures of the damage caused by the impact of huge chunks of ice were taken by B R employee Allen Gierke. The before picture shows the wing wall addition in its completed state of construction in April of last year. The after picture, taken last week, depicts how the addition has moved and the damage done to the rebar within the concrete, which once held the addition in place.
With cooler temperatures remaining, Strasheim said the irrigation project will use an excavator next week to clear the area around the Shirley pumping plant. Once more ice is removed and as water levels decrease, a better assessment of the damages done will be made.
The fish screen installation is a pilot project that is being funded through state and federal agencies, with nearly $195,000 coming from the NRCS WHIP program, $56,000 from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services and $100,000 from the Renewable Grant Resource program of the Montana DNRC. 
There is a June 30, 2011 deadline to install the fish screens.
The irrigation project has kept state and federal officials updated on the current situation through email correspondence and pictures.
Officials from the Bureau of Reclamation, who helped engineer the fish screen project, are expected to help with the reconstruction of the wing wall addition.
Strasheim anticipates the June 30 deadline to be met. 
Minor damages caused by ice jams within the district have included the loss of handrails at the Fallon pumping station.
There has been no damage done inside any of the pumping plants, Strasheim said. “It’s been long time since we’ve gotten ice like that.”

Published March 30, 2011

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