News Release – 100th Anniversary of the Irrigation Canal
The Ditch – 1919 – 2019
The Town of Oliver unveiled a commemorative bronze plaque to formally celebrate the centennial anniversary of the irrigation canal; often referred to as the Ditch.
Mayor Johansen and Council members met at Fairview Park, across from the secondary school, to recognize 100 years of the irrigation canal delivering water to the semi-arid desert area transforming it into the viable agricultural growing oasis it is today. An earlier unveiling was cancelled due to COVID-19 where past Alderman, Council members, Engineers, and long-term staff were invited.
“It is an amazing piece of infrastructure”, stated Mayor Johanson, “the engineering involved, using the tools that were available years ago is unbelievable. The irrigation canal has provided a sustainable and reliable water source for 100 years, and with continued maintenance and major repairs scheduled to re-route the siphon at Gallagher Lake, the canal will serve the area for many years to come”.
- In 1918 the Provincial Government purchased 22,000 acres of land in the south Okanagan and proceeded to develop an irrigation system designed to convert some 8,000 acres of desert land on each side of the Okanagan River into viable agriculture land. This land was made available, at a reasonable cost, to the returning soldiers from World War 1. This project was brought to life by BC Premier “Honest John Oliver” – hence the origin of the name of the Town of Oliver.
- The South Okanagan Lands project was born. Surveying, mapping and construction was underway employing 100 to 150 men over the next seven years. The canal had an overall length of 40 concrete lined kilometres, originally to be open earth. By 1923, the canal reached Testalinda Creek.
- The canal was fully finished and able to bring water from the bluff to the US border a total of 37 kilometres.
1919 – 1964
- The Province managed the canal during this period then turned the canal over to the Oliver and Osoyoos Fruit Growers that eventually became the South Okanagan Lands Irrigation District (SOLID) in 1972.
- The canal was turned over to local governments with Oliver assuming 60% of the assets and Osoyoos 40%.
- Oliver provides 601 irrigation water services, irrigating 5,200 acres of farmland with 1,025 acres pumping their own water from the Town’s irrigation canal. 455 acres of non-farm land is also irrigated.
Town of Oliver
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