Ripple Effect 01: Massive Canals and Lots of Mint

The heart of the Bear River Canal Company system has been in operation since the late 1880s. BRCC representatives Curtis Marble and Trevor Neilson discuss Company history, coming challenges, and opportunities for the future. Hosted by Emily Lewis.

 

Transcription:

Brian Lebrecht, President of Clyde Snow & Sessions  0:04
This podcast is brought to you by the law firm of Clyde Snow and Sessions based in Salt Lake City with offices in Oregon and California. For over 65 years Clyde Snow has represented clients throughout the West. Clyde Snow: Serious About Solutions.

Emily Lewis, Host  0:25
Hello, welcome to Ripple Effect, a podcast putting water into context. I’m Emily Lewis, your host, and I’m a water attorney here in Salt Lake City, Utah, practicing creative solutions to today’s and tomorrow’s water problems. Welcome to the conversation.

All right, welcome to Ripple Effect. This is our first podcast we are jumping in. This podcast is really intended to be an opportunity to open some conversations with the Utah water user community and beyond. And so we thought for our first episode, we would have some representatives of the Bear River Canal Company come and join us. And so I have with us today, Curtis Marble, the current President of the Bear River Canal Company, and Trevor Nielson, the current General Manager of the Company. And so the reason that I asked these two gentlemen to join me is that the Bear River Canal Company has a long and storied history, which is pretty fascinating to dive into, and is a pretty key player in contemporary water policy here in the state. And so I think that they would have some very good perspectives to share with us. So, gentlemen, if you want to introduce yourselves and give a couple thoughts about kind of who you are, and then we’ll just dive right in.

Curtis Marble, Guest  1:52
My name is Curtis Marble. I currently sit on the board of directors and I reside as the currently the board president and have been on the board for 18 years.

Trevor Nielson, Guest  2:05
Trevor Nielson, General Manager of the Bear River canal company, I’ve been in my position for about a year. I’m originally from the Millard County area, worked in water management down there, and then came up to work with Bear River. And then I’m also a member of the Utah Water Task Force.

Emily Lewis  2:23
So another reason that I wanted the Bear River Canal Company to be one of our first episodes is because it’s such a large and important company, but I don’t really think that that is generally understood. In the Utah water conversation, we have a lot of discussions about large municipal suppliers and large federal projects. But you know, agriculture obviously, is such a huge component of the Utah economy. And the Bear River Canal Company is a large player in that. And so I was hoping for our listeners that you guys could give us just kind of a little bit of context about, you know, the scale and the scope and the purpose of the Bear River Canal Company. And then, you know, if you want to throw any interesting historical tidbits, you know, that would also be helpful.

Curtis Marble  3:05
Okay. Hopefully, we can be of some help to you today. This is all very new to Trevor and I, so we’ll do the best we can.

Emily Lewis  3:16
So can you give us kind of a little bit of a overview of what is the current configuration of the company, you know, kind of like how, how many acres do you irrigate? How many shareholders do you have? What do they typically produce, you know, just kind of like a 10,000 foot view of where the company is and kind of what they do.

Trevor Nielson  3:38
So, Bear Canal Company was established or its predecessors were established in 1887, I believe, with original water filings. Shortly after, about 20 years after its inception, it was purchased by the Utah Idaho Sugar Company and they held ownership with that until 1980, when it was purchased by the current shareholders and owners that are the farmers of Box Elder County. In 1912, they signed a contract with the Utah Power and Light to drastically increase the security of their water delivery and Utah Power and Light has constructed a series of hydroelectric dams on the Bear River to generate off of our water as it comes down the river and it’s been a great, great relationship that we cherish still today. We irrigate officially 65,500 acres, we have 124 miles of canal. It’s broken into five main canals and five lateral canals. And we have seven employees including myself, and we are based out of Tremonton which is at the center of our company.

Emily Lewis  4:56
All right. And then just for the listeners, you know, situated, where do you mainly take your water from today? Kind of where in the state are we talking about? Your office is in Tremonton but, you know, could you put us like a little bit on the map of where your system is located?

Trevor Nielson  5:10
So our water comes out of the Uintah mountains and is stored in Bear Lake. That’s where our storage component comes a huge proportion of our water’s natural flow that comes out of the Cache Valley. And so our system starts at the Cache Valley, or the cash Box Elder county line. And it runs all the way to the Great Salt Lake. The company services pretty much all the irrigated acres from the north and of the Great Salt Lake to the Idaho border with a few thousand acres with the exception to that but we are the single largest irrigation company in the state and we service the Box Elder County area so like I said, the north end of the Great Salt Lake.

Emily Lewis  5:57
And so Curtis I was hoping that you could kind of tell us a little about kind of crops that you produce in hand the crops is one of their shareholders here producing the state.

Curtis Marble  6:05
Well, that’s good question. Let me begin by saying I’ve always said that Box Elder county is the breadbasket of the state of Utah when it comes to agriculture. I don’t say that to offend anyone but we have a water delivery system that makes that possible for us. And there are various different crops grown in our water area. Mainly wheat, small grains, corns, alfalfa, we do have specialty crops a lot of yellow onions are grown a lot of vegetables are grown. As I’m discussing this now I’m sure there’s something I will forget but there’s there’s a lot of truck gardening is it’s a very unique system and it supplies a lot of farmers with different alternatives for agriculture.

Emily Lewis  6:57
And what do you particularly produce?

Curtis Marble  6:59
We currently farm on the very end of the canal which sometimes can be a challenge at times but we grow yellow onions do a lot of row crop farming. We do truck gardening and that consists of pumpkins, watermelon, cantaloupe, squash, winter and summer. But our main, probably our main crop that we grow on our farm is mint. Mint for oil.  And this mint is found in your chewing gum and your toothpaste, in anything that you have that has mint in it is used is probably your has been produced by a mint farmer.

Emily Lewis  7:38
And so are those – Do you sell your oils to primarily Utah companies? Or do you sell that like all over the country?

Curtis Marble  7:44
No, as a matter of fact,  there’s nobody in Utah that purchases or will purchase or is interested in purchasing our oil. Our oil goes to Idaho to buyers who then sell it to the end user like Colgate, Wrigley’s, Andes Mints, a lot of places that anybody that makes chewing gum is our end user. Walmart’s a big buyer and also Procter and Gamble – of our mint oils.

Emily Lewis  8:14
I eat too many Andes Mints in our lobby most days.

Curtis Marble  8:17
Good for you, you are supporting the mint industry and we greatly appreciate it!

Emily Lewis  8:21
Happy to do so.

Curtis Marble  8:23
It’s a – It’s a unique crop, it’s relatively easy to grow, we do all the distilling on our farm at a distillery. Surprisingly enough, there are only three mint farmers in the state of Utah. Two of them are found in Box Elder county and the other one is in down by Mona.

Emily Lewis  8:42
So is that a particularly water intensive crop? Or is it kind of – I have no concept of what a mint farm would require.

Curtis Marble  8:49
It can be, mint requires the three main requirements of mint or nitrogen, which is plant food, sunshine, and water. And it can be at times very water consuming crop. But those those three components make up a good mint crop.

Emily Lewis  9:08
All right. One of the reasons I asked Curtis to come here because I knew he was a mint farmer. And I found that fascinating. And how many years have you been a shareholder for?

Curtis Marble  9:17
Probably over 30 years.

Emily Lewis  9:20
One of the purposes I think of having this podcast and having these conversations is that, you know, I really would like this to be an opportunity to kind of break down some of the silos that we have in the water community. And I think water companies, those who are involved with water companies understand them very well. They understand the nature of holding a water share and the corporate nature of a water company. But the average consumer and the average water user in the state and the average Utahan probably doesn’t know much about irrigation companies. And so, you know, one of the reasons I wanted to have you guys here in particular is I’m kind of curious about you know, over from being a shareholder in a company from the early 1980s till now which is 2020 you know, what kind of changes have you seen and thoughts you might have?

Curtis Marble  10:04
Some of the – probably since I’ve been on the board and some of the the biggest changes I’ve seen has been water conservation. Obviously, we have a unique state Utah’s a beautiful state. And more and more people want to come and they want to live here. More and more people are having children and those children want to settle here. So probably over the years, probably in the 18 years, you really don’t start paying close attention to to water until you feel like there’s a responsibility. And once you get on the board, you feel that there’s a responsibility that you need to be paying attention to what’s going on around you because of the importance of preserving the water. And we have seen probably I’ve seen probably in the last 10 to 15 years, the big push for water conservation, because they need they’re gonna need water for the state to grow.

Emily Lewis  11:01
And I think that’s a great point. And I completely concur with you that that is a very hot topic that has been for a long time and I think will increasingly be important as Utah addresses a number of water constraints and demands. And so one of the questions I have is being in the agricultural industry, how do you see that conservation actually happening on the ground, you know, challenges farmers are facing or things that have worked really well. And then the kind of thoughts you have kind of on that?

Curtis Marble  11:28
Well, usually changes are economically driven, Emily. When a farm – The old saying is it’s it’s not your father’s farm. And it’s not, you’ve got to make changes to adapt to the economic impacts that are going to be affected on your farm. And so a lot of times, you make these changes, and you do it. So in the way of conversation, I’m going to use one example. When I when I very first started farming there was lots of small fields. And there were ditch lines and fence lines. And they come up with new technology called laser level. And they would go in and they would take all these small fields. And they would take out the ditches and they would take out the fence lines and they would laser laser laser level them, excuse me into bigger fields, so that we can irrigate more efficiently with the water we had. Which was good because it showed improvement and it showed that we were doing due diligence with our water to get across as much ground as we could. But it also in the in the pursuit of conservation, it kind of changed the dynamics of the family farm. And so now those little ditches and and fence lines that were not irrigated, are now becoming irrigated. And so it was a change in the right direction, but we had to adapt to that change also, because obviously, we were irrigating more acres.

Trevor Nielson  13:06
And that’s one of the biggest problems we deal with on the management side and why in our particular system, we have a limitation on our bylaws, on our ratio of shares to acres to help make sure that we do our best to ensure that that expansion that’s talked about throughout the state is minimized in our canal company. Because it’s a it’s a big problem. People want to irrigate more and more, and it does create more consumption. And you know, there’s some issues there. So something we deal with probably every board meeting –

Curtis Marble  13:36
We do.

Trevor Nielson  13:37
– making sure that people are in compliance with state law.

Emily Lewis  13:42
That’s actually a good segue, would you guys just explain a little bit about the nature of a shareholder company.

Trevor Nielson  13:48
So just like a stock company that you have on the stock market, it’s structured the same way. But instead of receiving a monetary dividend, like normal stocks, what you receive in exchange for ownership is water. So a farmer buys so many shares of the canal company, and he’s entitled to so much water as a result, or at least the best the canal company can do to deliver that water. And they vote – I mean we have an annual shareholders meeting next week. And Curtis Marble actually is going to be stepping down. He’s been on the board for 18 years and, and he’s decided he’s had enough fun. He’s done a great job for the company. It’s in a lot better place than when he started and same with his predecessor. They really devote a lot to the company. One thing that’s unique about agricultural, municipal water companies is that the Board of Directors, unlike regular companies, receive pretty good compensation for their services. The canal irrigation company is like, what’s the right word?

Emily Lewis  14:53
Volun-told?

Trevor Nielson  14:53
Yeah, well, I mean, they make very, very little, they have very, very little monetary compensation for their services. And they put in a lot of time, and they put up with a lot of very unpleasant people, that’s one thing that people don’t really realize about water is, when someone doesn’t have their water, that’s probably about as mean as they’ll ever get as a human being. But back maybe, to your question a little more. So based on their shares, we deliver that water to a place that they set to their farm to their head gate. And so we divert our job is we divert water out of the Bear River, send it down our canal system and deliver to those head gates according to their shares. And in our system, there’s a lot – there’s several different types of canal systems but in our system, it’s based on time, so they get so many hours per week, based on their shares. And then we try to honor that as close as we can based on how well our water right yield. So the water is actually owned by the canal company. But the shareholders are entitled to whatever water is yielded from that water, right, equally, according to their, you know, equally per share.

Emily Lewis  16:01
And generally for you, how many acre feet per share is that about?

Trevor Nielson  16:05
We can in a normal year, we can deliver four acre feet per share.

Emily Lewis  16:10
And then so how do you, you know, I came up to your office about six weeks ago and had a great discussion with “Bonnie One” and “Bonnie Two” who are your incredible office staff. And so Bonnie and I had a great discussion just about how you internally manage that distribution. And I found that just fascinating. So if you could just give us a little bit of kind of some background about like, on the ground, how it works, you know, you have shareholders who have certain head gates where they receive their water, but obviously, as Curtis has mentioned, you know, people change their operations. And so how does a company manage a system with 2000 shareholders who are constantly wanting to change what they’re doing?

Trevor Nielson  16:49
So I guess, to clarify, “Bonnie One” and “Bonnie Two” the reason that, that we well, one of our employees is the mother and the other is the daughter. And so it’s very unique. And that’s something that’s kind of fun about agriculture is you deal with generational families, I know a lot of the board members children, and they’re very influential shareholders themselves. So that is different than a normal Corporation, very family tied operations. And you have to be mindful to, to keep that in, you know, sorted out. But there’s really kind of two systems that we have to be really conscious of, and making sure people get what they’re supposed to do. The first is is keeping track of the shares. And so shares are ownership. So just like the title of your car, we have stock shares that are the title of the water. And so we have to track that system, they can be bought, sold and transferred. And being that our footprint is about 25 miles wide and 15 miles long, or 15 miles wide and 25 miles long. It’s a huge area in which to try to kind of keep track of where where’s this all going? And who owns it? And things like things as simple as that grandpa forgot to change the name on his water certificates over to the next generation, and then he dies. It’s a legal nightmare. And so that –

Emily Lewis  18:08
But not with competent representation.

Trevor Nielson  18:11
It just, it just is a lot more complicated than people think they ought to be able to come in, and we ought to be able to write them a new stock certificate that day. And we just can’t do that because of all of the – it’s a legal document at the title essentially. And then it’s also tied to the second system, which is the water management system. So they tell us where they want their water put originally. And now once it’s in place, we have to manage that. Now, some of the constraints we have is our canals were only built to carry so much water.

Emily Lewis  18:43
And could you also tell us when your canals are built, because I think that this is a relevant factor that a lot of people don’t understand about the age of some of the canals in the state.

Trevor Nielson  18:51
So our canals were started in 1887. With that original water filing, there was a dam built upstream of Cutler dam called Whelan dam, that is actually still their old pioneer dam that’s under color reservoir now, and they blasted through the canyon and shoveled it out with, you know, handpicks, shovels and Fresno drag scrapers with mules and oxen and so that’s when it started not a system. It’s 124 miles long, both in manpower and in financial resources took several decades to actually put into place so it kind of acts expanded over time, but U and I Sugar Company probably finished it probably in the 20s or the 30s? Maybe, it was a well planned out system. I mean, I have one of my favorite artifacts that I have in my office is the original build map. It’s the prominent feature in the general manager’s office. It’s about six or seven feet tall and four feet wide and I’ve done by drawing by hand and has chalk outlines for each of the canals. And it’s actually really close to what they originally planned. I mean, I’m super surprised that very rarely does it deviate from what this map shows. And those old guys, they knew what they were doing. I’ve run several canal systems, or been involved with several canal systems in my life. And this one is probably the most impressive because of how they thought about, if we placed these type of check structures or backup structures, in a certain pattern, it makes it so that the system runs with very, very little labor

Emily Lewis  20:34
Could you just, you know, for the average person just kind of explaining what a check system is in a dam and in a canal system and how that works?

Trevor Nielson  20:40
So water flows downhill, as we all know. But in a canal, sometimes we have to put essentially a dam that lets that comes up partway, and lets water flow over the top. And what that does is it backs the water up or brings the elevation of the water up so that the water is high enough in the canal, that it can go out the head gates because the head gates are on the side, and they they go off to smaller ditches. And so if you have a lot of water in, so mid season, July, the checks aren’t as important because the canal is as full as it can be. I mean, it’s at max capacity. But when we get more at the start of the season, or at the end of the season, there’s not as much water and so it doesn’t back up naturally. So we put these check boards in these checks to artificially raise the elevation to make it so that farmers can actually get the water out of the canal because water doesn’t flow uphill.

Emily Lewis  21:33
Unless there’s money.

Trevor Nielson  21:34
Yeah, that’s true.
Well, that’s the thing that people don’t understand. They think that canals are like roads, they get resurfaced, they get redone with canals, that’s not the case, I would say probably 98% of my system is identical, or at least materially identical to the day it was dug. So it’s 1800, or you know, 1880s to 1930 technology, that still works very, very well. But things do arise. I mean, it’s not like the entire thing’s made of brand new reinforced concrete. It’s earthen ditches that ditch beds been there for over 100 years.

Emily Lewis  22:17
Yeah, I think that’s a pretty fascinating – Utah’s such a unique state. And that, like our history is sincerely living today, like we have contemporary history. And I think that as we look to the future, you know, that also needs to be taken into account is that our infrastructure, you know, for agriculture, a lot of our ditch systems are quite old. You know, now, a lot of our big dam systems are aging. I mean, the infrastructure question here in the state is a large issue that the water user community will need to deal with here in the future. But it is amazing how much still works today, like with the amount of years of use, and wear and tear. Which I guess is a good a good segue into kind of what are your guys’ thoughts for into the future? You know, Trevor, you and I have had a lot of offline discussions just in the context of us, you know, working with the company about kind of what the future is, but what do you see as the manager and looking, you know, 5, 10, 20 years down the line as how we’re going to bring a system with 1887 ditches kind of into a modern era that is really facing an unprecedented amount of pressures?

Trevor Nielson  23:33
Well, there’s a heck of a lot of science behind it. And so one thing that’s challenging for water companies around the state is finding management that is willing to deal with the angst that comes with water, but still, and then also has the education and the expertise to understand the science behind it. Because there’s some sections of canal systems that won’t be improved if you covered it over with concrete. I mean, because of the clay inundated layers that lie in the bottom of the canal, the soils that are there, it doesn’t leak at all. But there’s other areas where it’s like a gravel pit. I mean, today, we went and got some funding for a EPDM, which is a rubber liner that goes through an area that is next to a gravel pit. So those are obviously areas in the future, that we will continue to line as fast as funds will allow. And that’s the thing about a canal company is we only have so many resources, and we have a huge amount of infrastructure. So we can only run so fast.

Emily Lewis  24:39
And so I’d like to clarify too, because being a shareholder company, where do you guys get your income?

Trevor Nielson  24:45
We charge assessments to the shareholders. And I’ll let you talk about that a little more since the board a while.

Curtis Marble  24:52
Well, when I got on the board, the assessment was $12. At our shareholders meeting which we will probably going to raise the assessment and it’ll be $25.50. Is that correct?

Trevor Nielson  25:04
Yeah.

Curtis Marble  25:06
And so over the 18 years I’ve been on there, I’ve seen the share the cost for shares the assessments double. I guess something that I guess I would like to point out. And when you had your question earlier, I see one of the challenges that comes our way- We do we live in a really great state where we have a great legislature, the legislature meets every year, in the better interest of the citizens of this state. One of our board members, Charles Holmgren, he always made a statement, he says, “when the legislature meets grab your wallet,” and when he made that comment earlier on, I guess I brushed it off. But now having, sitting where I am today, I see that statement is a very profound statement. Because we deal a lot and we’re going to deal a lot more with encroachments on along the canal system. And so when you ask what would probably be one of the biggest challenges is, I would say that it’s to continue farming and continue operating this canal company and the system it has, with the demand that we’re going to see over the next 20-30 years for population. So we have to be really careful because we want to protect water rights, we want to take care of the shareholders who have left us with that stewardship. But we’ve also got to work with the legislature and the legislators got to work with us. We have great representatives in the state. And I, you know, I do I’m a firm believer that something that can be done. But along the way, there’s going to be some some growing pains, and there’s going to be some, you know, issues that are going to have to be dealt with. But I have confidence in our legislature that it’ll be done. I see that task being done.

Emily Lewis  27:10
Yeah, I have to tell you that my first year of law school, the memo that was given to us as our first year assignment was a canal liability memo for people who live next to canals. And I was like, Oh, perfect. I love law school. This is exactly what I want to do.

Curtis Marble  27:27
What a perfect way to start to get your feet wet.

Emily Lewis  27:30
Perfect way to get my feet wet. Yeah, exactly. Yeah. I do want to come back to one comment from Trevor. So Trevor, talking about kind of the technology and the science that is implicit in running a canal company for looking into the future. Can you tell me a little bit about what your thoughts are on like metering? Metering has been a hot topic here in the state of Utah. Like what do you feel like the role is going forward and kind of just knowing more about how much water we’re using, where it’s going and what the actual fiscal quantity of the resource is.

Trevor Nielson  28:07
In Utah and all western states, the focus has been on supply. So you either create more supply through dams and use of the existing water more, more carefully, or you line canals, you do things that make it so that more water makes it from point A to point B. Well, in the future, we have to focus more on the demand side. And metering doesn’t help the supply side, almost at all other than it can well, it doesn’t really help that side at all. What it helps is the demand side, there’s two factors, there’s the end consumer. And so that’s mostly when we think of homeowners that kind of metering, if they realize they’re using too much water, usually people are willing to spend less money if they realize like, because water is money to get the job done. So there’s the user kind of education, so to speak. The second side is the management of the demand. So meters make it so that if you have competent management, who’s forward looking, you can essentially make more water. The reason why is you can stretch what you have better. So like on our canal system, we take all the shares, and you could think of them as a stack of Legos. And our water right is like a frame. And so what we do is we have a computer system that is stacked all the Legos in the frame, to try to make it so that our flow matches the demand. And overtime that’s come out of balance. And so right now, we’re redoing that and we’re using a process called constrained optimization and so we’re letting a computer figure out how we, how we get the water to them. The advantage there is is that it makes a steady flow and you know what you need to be delivering the advantage of metering is it allows you to to dynamically manage it. So if you think about a canal system like a, a pipe with valves, if you put the meter on there, you know that if I turn this valve up and this one down, even though I’ve got the same amount coming from the beginning, now I’ve kind of rerouted that water. And that’s what metering on a canal basis really gives you the advantage of is, you know, what you’ve got where you’ve got extra where you’ve got shortages, because old systems, although they were very efficient for their day and are really good, if you don’t know what anything extra goes out the end of the canal and is not used. And so the idea with using technology is knowing down to the minute or down to the second what you’re losing out the end of the bottom or your extra, and then be able to dynamically reroute that by changing gates upstream using these meters in these telemetry stations to make it so that you aren’t missing deliveries. A perfect example of this is this last season, I had one canal that was always running about 10 cubic second feet over, and one that we are always struggling to meet deliveries on. And if we’re able to implement the telemetry system I’d like to see us do in the next 10 years, we wouldn’t have those missed balances. And so without metering, you can’t really manage the demand side. And so that’s its role.

Emily Lewis  31:27
So I’m gonna go back on that because I do think that I think you’re hitting on all the points that I think are really relevant conversation topics. But I’d also like our listeners to kind of understand what that means when we say me for a system like you can you kind of go over what what you currently have on that stand on from that point and and kind of what you’re looking at and implementing in the future, in terms of what your current telemetry stations are, versus you know what your future projections are.

Trevor Nielson  31:53
So, Bear River Canal Company, because it was owned by the UI Sugar Company and was sold in 1980. It’s a little bit behind most canal systems around the state as far as its level of measurement. The reason being is that the UI Sugar Company was struggling financially and didn’t put the measurement infrastructure in place. So now we as the owners are having to do that. So a lot of – we do have good we have measurement at the dam that is telemetry based. So in other words, measurements taken and sent by computer and I can see live any time what that measurement is. And then we have one other station on the system. Now we’re implementing another station this fall. And then we have another automated gate in the system. There’s six components that are of this telemetry now. We’re looking at spreading this out over the system. So changing these old gates that are still the old pioneer gates over to new automated gates. And there’s a balance there, because what’s the return to my shareholders? How am I making their life better by setting set – by using these large amounts of money? I mean, automation and telemetry is expensive. So right now we have staff gauges. Now staff gauge is essentially a measuring tape that’s permanently set on the side of a structure, concrete wall or something like that, that tells the depth. And we have flow meters. And so with some places, we have charts, it makes it easier to kind of tell, are we over? Are we under today? Are we under delivering over delivering? How’s that going? And it’s all it’s very much a field system. So that’s where my ditch riders come in. Ditch riders are very difficult commodity to obtain. I mean, they are so valuable. One that knows what they’re doing has had that experience has learned over the years how, you know, can kind of speak to the canal.

Emily Lewis  33:50
So explain for our audience what a ditch rider does.

Curtis Marble  33:53
That’s good point, Emily.

Trevor Nielson  33:54
So a ditch writer is like the police officer of the canal and the manager of the canal,

Emily Lewis  34:00
Everyone’s favorite friend.

Trevor Nielson  34:02
Your favorite – they’re frenemies really with all the farmers, they’re either your best friend or they’re your enemy. Because I mean, they if people take water out of turn, the ditch writer is the one who locks their gate. And you can imagine people aren’t happy when they show up to change the water and find that their gates locked because they were stealing water, which is a big, that’s probably our biggest management problem is theft for those ditch writers, and then the other side or the kind of the art of it is that they know when I get staff gauge readings at these points that I will make my deliveries today or when they’re these points, I’m not going to make my deliveries today or I there are these points so I know I can give some of my water to the other canal next to me so that they can make their deliveries. And it’s a little bit hard because to survive as a ditch writer you have to have a really strong personality kind of a red personality. So that –

Curtis Marble  35:00
Very broad shoulders.

Trevor Nielson  35:01
Yeah, they can take a lot of getting yelled at. And they can, they can take it and they condition. But I have five of them. And then there’s me. So you put us all in a room and five red personalities in a room is kind of an exciting experience. So they’re hard to come by. And then also, they’re kind of on call all the time. And so it’s harder and harder to find people who are willing to live that kind of life. And that’s the other reason for the metering. And the automation is that if I don’t raise their quality of life make their jobs easier, I won’t be able to replace them when they decide that they won when they retire.

Emily Lewis  35:38
And so what is the average age of your ditch riders?

Trevor Nielson  35:40
55, 56.

Emily Lewis  35:48
Because I do think that is one thing in the water community that is, you know, kind of, from my perspective, increasingly become apparent as our demographic shifts and finding ways to, you know, capture the institutional knowledge of the generations that are looking to do something different, like those who are retiring off the boards of irrigation companies.

Curtis Marble  36:05
Yeah.

Emily Lewis  36:05
And so I do think that as a community that –

Curtis Marble  36:08
Guarantee I don’t want to become a ditch rider.

Emily Lewis  36:10
What?! But you would be so good at it, Curtis. Your shoulders are really broad!

Curtis Marble  36:14
I would never survive.

Emily Lewis  36:17
Well, we’ll put we’ll note that. But yeah, I think that one of the things that that we as a community are really going to have to think about is the best way to make those transitions and so that we all the institutional knowledge is incorporated and then put into a, you know, the next the next chapter of water management. Well, I’ve so appreciated your time today, in your 18 years on the board and your 40 years in the company, you know, kind of like highlights a kind of best scenarios, worst scenarios, just kind of whatever, you know, a free form moment for you to kind of reflect on some things that come to your mind.

Curtis Marble  36:51
Well, a good rainstorm in May is wonderful. It takes a lot of pressure off the system. And I would like to extend the thanks to you and Kenzie, for this opportunity we have on behalf of the Bear River Canal Company and we appreciate you allowing us to take part of this presentation today. Thank you very much.

Emily Lewis  37:12
Yeah, well, hopefully, this podcast will continue and it’s really meant to be a forum to invite people just like yourself just tell your tell your stories. That’s really the purpose and you guys have some good stories to tell and thoughts and will be forever recorded on the internet’s Okay. All right. Thank you.

Brian Lebrecht  37:48
Nothing said in this podcast should be taken as providing legal advice or as establishing an attorney client relationship with you or anyone else. Thank you for listening.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai