By Ann McCreary

After encountering lengthy delays due to the recent federal government shutdown, the Methow Valley Irrigation District (MVID) plans this week to evaluate the capacity of a test well to see if it will provide enough water to serve MVID customers through a new piped system.

The test well was dug in September in an orchard behind Hank’s Harvest Foods in Twisp. As part of MVID’s “Instream Flow Improvement Project,” the irrigation district proposes to stop removing water from the Twisp River and replace its 12-mile West Side open canal with a pressurized pipe system supplied by a well.

Plans to test the well’s capacity were delayed when a hydrologist with the Bureau of Reclamation, who is serving as an adviser on the project, was furloughed as a result of the government shutdown earlier this month.

Project manager Gregg Knott said test pumping will take place over a 24-hour period on Wednesday and Thursday (Oct. 30-31). In order to provide the water supply that the district will need, the well will need to produce 1,200 gallons per minute, Knott said.

Well drillers hit bedrock at 60 feet and the well was producing abut 240 gallons per minute, but that was with a smaller pipe than would be used for a permanent well, Knott said. He said the hydrologist will assess the result of the test pumping and make a report in about a month.

Project planners have also taken core samples of soil and rock on property owned by Bill White on Lookout Mountain, where a new water storage tank would be placed to hold water pumped from the well. The testing is being done to determine if the site is suitable for the tank.

Easement would be needed

The MVID improvement project calls for water to be pumped uphill from the well to the storage tank, and then sent through pressurized pipe to irrigate about 140 acres on benches above Twisp, including Painters Addition and Lookout Mountain Road, and south to the beaver ponds on the Twisp-Carlton Road.

MVID would purchase an easement from White for the tank, which would be situated to minimize visibility to area residents, Knott said.

In giving permission for the test well to be drilled, Twisp Town Council and public works officials required that a town-owned well located about 1,500 feet away from the MVID test well be monitored during the pumping to determine if the water level of the town well drops when water is pumped from the MVID well.

At least one other privately owned well near the MVID test well will also be monitored to see if it is impacted, Knott said.

If the test well produces as hoped, MVID would need a permit from the town to drill a permanent well. However, new wells are currently prohibited in Twisp under a decade-long moratorium on new permanent wells, a result of the town’s longstanding problems regarding its legal water rights.

The proposed water tank on the White property would also require a conditional use permit from the town, because the property is within town limits, Knott said.

In addition to enclosing the West Side canal, the Instream Flow Improvement Project calls for excluding about 80 parcels now served by the ditch, and compensating owners for the cost of digging individual wells.

Changes to MVID’s East Side Canal, which diverts water from the Methow River near the North Cascades Smokejumper Base, include installing a gravity-fed pipe from near the Lloyd industrial property and extending to Beaver Creek, and converting about eight parcels near the end of the new pipe to wells.

The project is on a fast track because $6.2 million appropriated for the project by the Washington Legislature must be spent on construction by June 2015.

Knott said he expects to complete “30 percent design” of the project in November, and then put the plan through a “value engineering” process, during which the project design and costs are evaluated by a team of professionals not involved in the project.

The project timeline calls for a final design in June, followed by requests for bids, with construction to begin in September 2014, Knott said.