Canal bank trespassers causing Irrigation District headaches

Posted at 10:47 AM, Apr 21, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-21 12:47:11-04

NAMPA, Idaho — Officials with the Nampa and Meridian Irrigation District –- the Treasure Valley’s largest irrigation district –- say they have seen a “sharp spike in the numbers of incidents of people trespassing on canal banks and even illegal gardens being planted in the easement areas.”

“I’ve had have had a ton of calls from people wanting to know if they can walk along canals, should their neighbors be, and about walking along the gravel maintenance roads. I’ve also had several landowners call and ask us to install gates to prevent people from trespassing on their land. We are even having people walk right past locked gates with ‘No Trespassing’ signs on them.” said NMID Water Superintendent Greg Curtis.

Another new issue popping up is gardens that are being planted in the easement area that the canal maintenance crews use (pictured).

“It may help homeowners break the monotony of the ‘stay at home’ restrictions, but it creates serious access problems for NMID workers if they need to get to a problem spot. It is also illegal -- as Idaho law requires written permission from the Irrigation District before any objects, including gardens, can be placed in the easement areas,” Curtis explained.

If a resident does not have the written permission, Idaho law allows the irrigation district to remove the object and charge the costs to the entity or person who placed it there.

“We truly can appreciate everyone wanting to plant a garden, but in the canal easement area behind their back fence is not the place to do it. Residents may think it’s okay because our crews can drive around it. But it’s not okay because if their neighbors do the same in an emergency, we won’t be able to get past without driving over the garden area,” he added.

Gates to stop the trespassing problem are not a solution. NMID officials say if they installed all the gates being requested by landowners, their ditch riders would get nothing done but unlocking gates all day.

Curtis feels the trespassing issue is coming in part from the flood of newcomers who are not familiar with Idaho water law.

“We want to be good neighbors with the residents who live around our canals. But we also want them to know they are breaking the law by trespassing – plus, it is very dangerous because many of the canals are rising rapidly in water levels every day to meet the high demand this spring. We should never forget that people, including children, die in irrigation canals every year,” Curtis pointed out.

NMID delivers irrigation water to approximately 69,000 acres of Treasure Valley agricultural and residential lands in Ada and Canyon Counties. 2020 marks the 116th consecutive year of water deliveries to the Treasure Valley by the irrigation district.

(photo courtesy: Nampa and Meridian Irrigation District)