Water is gushing over the dam, but just yards upstream it’s a portrait of tranquillity as a flock of pelicans bob like marshmallows with big beaks near a grassy and willowy sandbar. Two honking geese take flight, and, in the distance, a pheasant squawks.
It’s chilly, in the low 30s, as the sun makes a feeble attempt to conquer the clouds. The river is running high and grass along the inundated banks is swaying in the swift flow as though dancing to the river’s music.
The Shoshone is running so high and fast it sounds like a river running a mountain gorge.
Monday, as is typical, the district began diverting 300 cubic feet per second. The Deaver Irrigation District downstream gets a little over one-third of the Shoshone District’s release, said Bryant Startin, district manager.
To start, the district will use the water to flush the canal and ditches. But soon, farmers raising barley, hay or pasture will be calling for water, Cain said.
Cain will also be firing up the power plant near Ralston this week, he said.
The power plant produces hydroelectric power to offset user assessments.
At around 9:15 a.m., a mile or two downstream from the tunnel, a wild turkey tom leads two hens. He struts up the muddy bank, cognizant of the pickup truck and occupants watching him, but likely incognizant of the dawn of another irrigation season that hopefully will prove profitable to growers.
There is no real drama here. No wall of water charging down the ditch like a tsunami. It will be a small wave of water, but it travels so slowly, a man on foot can out-walk it.
At 7:55 a.m., the gates were opened at the dam and by Monday evening, folks cruising Coulter Avenue in Powell should have noticed the change.
“Six o’clock or so, if that,” Startin said.
It takes at least 12 hours for Shoshone River water diverted at the Corbett Dam to reach the end of the line in Garland.
Startin and Cain watched the turkeys for a moment, but their eyes were soon diverted to the canal and the water’s progress. They estimated the water was about 3 feet high in a canal that is 8 feet deep in the center.
“It’s just barely getting here,” Startin said.
Startin, Cain and other district hands will spend the rest of a long day checking the water’s progress as the traditional harbinger of spring, irrigation water, marks its passage in the canals and ditches around Powell.