Yelm Ditch Project

Yelm Ditch Project

Problems of Financing, Organization of Crew Yardage, Flume Work and Results

Fred S. Sawyer, B. S.

Just three years ago this month, the Yelm Irrigation Company, an organization made up of farmers owning land in the vicinity of Yelm, Washington, began the construction of a main canal which was to carry water from the Nisqually river at a point some fifteen miles south east of Yelm to the prairies surrounding the town. Although at this time the water is not actually serving the land, the next sixty days should see the main channel completed, both ditch and flumes, and the problem of distribution to the prairie land is under way.

Co-Operative Financing

After surveys and estimates had been completed, and attempt was made to interest outside capital, but owing to the financial condition of the country at large, and to the hesitancy with which capital entered into any project that had the word “irrigation” in its name, this method was given up and the directors of the company evolved a plan whereby each member bound himself to construct a portion of the works, said portion being fixed according to the amount of acreage each owner had signed up for was laid out, and in March, 1912, each member began the construction  of his section of the canal according to his own ideas of how best the work might be pushed to completion. Camps were established, and while in some cases the farmers elected to do the work by day labor, others let the excavation in sections, by contract. For various reasons, such as press of farm work by day labor, others let the excavation in sections, by contract. For [?] reasons, such as press of farm work and unsatisfactory arrangements with outside contractors, this method of procedure was abandoned and a new tack taken which has been carried out and adhered to with the result that the main ditch is now practically finished. The irrigation company formed a subsidiary corporation known as the Yelm Construction Company, it being the purpose to [?] over all construction to the latter organization, and the actual work to be placed in charge of one man.


Purchase of Excavating Equipment

The first act of the construction company was to purchase a steam shovel, the choice being a 14-B Bucyrus steam shovel mounted on a single railroad truck and carrying a five-eighths yard dipper. The directors after serious consideration came to the conclusion that ditching by horse and man power was too slow, and that even though it would be necessary to move twice as much [?], in the end they would have a larger ditch without generally increasing the total cost. Operations with this shovel began late in the fall of 1912, and work progressed [?] for over two years. Chester Thompson, a director of the companies, was placed in charge of the work and served not only as superintendent of construction, but [?] as operator of the shovel.

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