The Bureau of Reclamation in the years of 1902 to 1907 helped to develop 30 projects in the Western United States.
One of the projects included the Yakima-Tieton Project, which now encompasses approximately 35,000 acres of which approximately 27,900 are in irrigation rotation and subject to charges for irrigation water delivered by the District. The irrigated lands are predominately (75%) fully developed orchard, with the remaining 25% in residential use, hay and pastureland.
The predominant fruit grown in the District is apples, however other fruits such as pears and cherries are also grown. The District currently serves 1,500 farms and has an estimated population of 18,200. A brief history is outlined below on how the Yakima Tieton Irrigation District has progressed throughout the years.
In March of 1906,the Board of Reclamation Engineers met to approve setting aside $1,000,000 toward the construction of the Yakima-Tieton Project. The Tieton Water Users Association was organized with Horace Gilbert as President in the same year.
The Tieton Main Canal consists of about 10 miles of open canal and two miles of tunnels, all located on the south side of the Tieton Canyon. The tunnels include the following, Steeple Tunnel, 100 feet long; Trail Creek Tunnel, 2730 feet; Columnar Tunnel, 1200 feet; Tieton Tunnel, 2730 feet; and the North Fork Tunnel, 3810 feet long. In addition to the tunnels there are five automatic spillways which are placed at two mile intervals. The Canyon project began in the Fall of 1906 and was completed in the Fall of 1909. The next step in the project was the distribution system which began in the Spring of 1908. Water was first delivered to the irrigators in 1910.
On April 12, 1906 they entered into a contract with the Secretary of the Interior for the construction of the project. In order to access the Tieton Canyon, they first needed to build a 15 mile wagon road which consisted of five bridges across the Tieton River. Even though the project was coming along quickly, in the winter of 1906 a flood occurred and destroyed a portion of the road and all of the bridges were washed away. Construction began in the spring of 1907 and all of the construction camps along the canal right of way were established as well as a telephone line connecting the Yakima office and the camps in the canyon.
The District was the first irrigation district in the nation to pay off its original construction obligations to the United States under reclamation laws. The final payment was in 1947. In 1977, the District began examining the type of improvements needed to rehabilitate its irrigation system. This led to the replacement of the original open canal delivery system with a new closed pressure pipe distribution system. The pressurized system now includes a regulating reservoir, six pump stations, two hydroelectric generating facilities, over 200 miles of pipe and 2000 turnouts. Construction of these facilities began in 1982 and complete in 1986. The cost at that time was $78 Million and was financed by a combination of federal and state loans and state grants. In 1988 the District issued a refunding bond issue to repay these loans. In 2003, Refunding Revenue Bonds were again issued by the District.
By 1912 the newly constructed canal that was designed to flow 330 second feet proved to only carry 285 second feet, the Association petitioned the Secretary of the Interior for relief. In the fall of 1912 he issued a new Public Notice which provided gradual payments over a 20 year period, this contract provided an additional $150,000 for the enlargement of the canal, the construction began in 1916. The design included increasing capacity to 335 second feet by raising the sides of the canal about 16 inches and replacing the concrete crossbar with a steel bar. The upgrade was completed in 1918.
Other than the main canal, the existing District facilities, completed in 1986, are not expected to require any major upgrades in the near future. The annual maintenance, repairs and improvements are expected to be funded from assessments collected.