Wind Storm Impacts on Canals

Wind Storm Impacts on Canals

By: John O’Callaghan, Assistant Director, SCBID

After a promising start in March, operations in the month of April turned out to be all about the wind – or more specifically – the weeds the wind brought. Typically, the prevailing winds come out of the west and after a few wind storms, the wind-blown weed load may start to diminish.

The year brought a significant load of weeds into District canals. Before crews could really dig out from those wind storms, just for good measure the wind decided to turn around and come out of the east for a while as well. Along with giving weeds a second chance to hit the canal, the wind blew weeds already removed from the canals but not yet disposed of back into canals.

Most of the wind-blown weed issues faced by the District are related to tumbleweeds and wild mustard, however there can be problems with crop residue as well. One lateral filled almost completely up with debris from an asparagus field which had been mulched last fall.

The primary problem caused by these wind events is that the weeds plug up weed racks, check structures, pipe entrances and other canal features. When a canal or lateral plugs up, the water doesn’t stop coming and it has to go somewhere, which in these cases means it flows over the banks and potentially causes a washout. This can result in damaged facilities and interruptions of water delivery service.

Wind storms mean a lot of extra work for District crew, and they generally seem to occur after hours and on weekends. While a variety of machinery is utilized to assist in the work, much of it still relies on old-fashioned pulling of weeds by hand with a weed fork, which is a strenuous job.

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