Shotgun saves canal


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TallPine
June 29, 2005, 12:20 PM
http://www.billingsgazette.com/index.php?ts=1&display=rednews/2005/06/29/build/state/25-canal.inc

Sure as shooting, overflowing canal saved
By LORNA THACKERAY
Of The Gazette Staff

SHAWMUT - In the wee hours Tuesday morning, Water Commissioner Teri Hice figured the only thing that would save the intake canal feeding Deadman's Basin Reservoir was a shotgun.

Five inches of rain dropped within a half-hour Monday afternoon, raging down the canal and swelling the volume of water it carried to two or three times its capacity.

Hice arrived about 7 p.m. and spent the night and early Tuesday morning pacing the canal bank with Musselshell County Commissioner Bob Goffena.


"We walked the ditch with flashlights, looking for ways to release the pressure,'' she said.

Two overflow spillways above the reservoir were damaged in the torrent of water, and a third collapsed completely, its concrete footings crumbling as flood waters undermined the structure.

The canal itself had already suffered one major breach, sending water cascading toward Highway 12 below. Unless Hice and Goffena could find a way to release the pressure, they feared, the aging canal might be totally overwhelmed. About all they could do was somehow remove boards from one of the overflow structures and let the water escape into the coulees.

That's where the shotgun came in. They needed someone to shoot enough holes in the boards to let water out.

"We ran around all over trying to find someone with a shotgun,'' Goffena said with a laugh about 12 hours later, when flood waters had

receded safely into the banks of the canal.

Eventually, they called the sheriff's office in Musselshell County to get a telephone number for the Wheatland County Sheriff''s Office in Harlowton. The damaged portion of the system is in Wheatland County.

"There are only so many people you can call at 3 in the morning,'' Hice said. "You want to be sure that when you're looking for a shotgun, you don't get met at the door by someone with a shotgun.''

Wheatland County Undersheriff Les Christensen arrived and fired away, blasting boards to smithereens with about 20 shots.

Despite flood damage that will mean replacing fences, clearing stock ponds and replacing a 1,000-gallon stock tank carried about a quarter-mile to the opposite side of a small reservoir, rancher Jim Taber was in good spirits Tuesday.

"What are you going to do?'' he asked.

For the past seven years, the Taber family ranching operation has been battling a drought of extreme proportions. They've reduced their cattle herd and transported what's left to greener pastures. But this spring, their land circling Shawmut wears a lush coat of deep grass.

"It's either feast or famine around here,'' the 33-year-old rancher said.

He went to bed about midnight Monday after doing what he could to help, but was up again at 3 a.m., keeping tabs on the situation.

"Overall, the canal did pretty darn good,'' Taber said. "It could have flooded Shawmut if something happened to it.''

The canal was built in the 1930s to feed water into Deadman's Basin Reservoir. A multi-year drought had reduced the reservoir to record lows. Irrigators were getting only a fraction of their water allotments.

Deadman's reservoir has improved water levels but remains far from full. Its capacity is about 72,000 acre-feet of water. Monday, it had about 43,000 acre-feet. But even at that level, Hice said she hopes to provide between 85 and 100 percent of water contracted to farmers and ranchers.

Repairs on the canal will mean slowing inflows into the reservoir, Goffena said. Water will be fed cautiously into the reservoir to make sure the system will hold together, he said.

By Tuesday morning, Craig Martin of Martin Excavating in Two Dot had started work repairing the canal breach. He'd packed one load of fresh, dry earth on the canal bank by late afternoon. But with dark clouds threatening, and gumbo-slicked roads, he didn't expect to finish the job until today. Martin estimated that it may take 700 cubic yards of dirt to shore up the breached canal bank.

"If it would just stop raining,'' he said with a sigh.

It's a sentiment Hice never thought she'd feel again.

"Please don't give us anymore rain,'' she said, then added, "That's a terrible thing to say, isn't it?''


Lorna Thackeray can be reached 657-1314 or at lthackeray@billingsgazette.com


Copyright The Billings Gazette, a division of Lee Enterprises

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TallPine
June 29, 2005, 12:26 PM
"There are only so many people you can call at 3 in the morning,'' Hice said. "You want to be sure that when you're looking for a shotgun, you don't get met at the door by someone with a shotgun.''
Yep, that's how it is in Montana ;)

Henry Bowman
June 29, 2005, 12:29 PM
"There are only so many people you can call at 3 in the morning,'' Hice said. "You want to be sure that when you're looking for a shotgun, you don't get met at the door by someone with a shotgun.'' Wise words, I suppose.

boofus
June 29, 2005, 12:46 PM
Imagine how much pressure they could have relieved with a machinegun :p

Save the canals! Legalize MG manufacture again!

El Tejon
June 29, 2005, 02:00 PM
As a kid I shot a couple of water wells (.22 mag if interested), but this is completely different.

What gun for body of water? :D

The_Antibubba
June 30, 2005, 02:43 AM
What gun for body of water?

Why, a subgun with Hydrashoks, of course! :neener:

Third_Rail
June 30, 2005, 09:14 AM
The_Antibubba, that actually caused me physical pain to read. :neener:

yorec
June 30, 2005, 09:57 AM
Shottys are also good for freeing clinkers in scrubbers... ;)

It's all about having the right tool for the job.

GunGoBoom
June 30, 2005, 11:46 AM
That story is a lie. Guns have but one purpose - to kill people!

grimjaw
June 30, 2005, 12:16 PM
Wheatland County Undersheriff Les Christensen arrived and fired away, blasting boards to smithereens with about 20 shots.

Sounds like a typical day at boxoftruth . . .

Andrew Rothman
June 30, 2005, 01:47 PM
Is there anything a shotgun can't do?

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