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The Kimball Dam

"Pinepound Reflections"
a History of Spring Coulee - pages 127 - 128

In 1897 the Alberta Railway and irrigation Co, commonly called the A.R. & I. were given a number of sections of land in Southern Alberta for building railways from Coutts to Lethbridge, and from Stirling to Spring Coulee. Originally these parcels of land were checkerboarded around Southern Alberta. This made it hard for the A.R. & I. to do much with their land so they talked the Government of Canada into consolidating all the land into one area. A new act was passed in Ottawa to do this, and all the land was consolidated in one area including Raymond, Stirling, Welling, Magrath and Spring Coulee. In order for the A.R. & I. to encourage farmers to develop this land they had to provide water for irrigating it, since the yearly rainfall was not enough to guarantee good crops every year. It was decided by the A.R. & I. that they would build a large irrigation ditch from Kimball on the St. Mary River to Stirling. They had been guaranteed a flow of 500 cu. ft. per second of water minimum. The ditch would pass through Spring Coulee and Magrath, on the way to Stirling and also provide water for Welling and even as far as Lethbridge which was all land controlled by the A.R. & I. There was a natural flow from Kimball to Stirling so pumping would not be necessary.

In order to get qualified workers for the project C.A. Magrath, the manager of the A.R. & I., made an arrangement with the LDS (Mormon) church in Salt Lake City. Immigrants were advised that they could go to Canada and work would be provided on this canal. Half the pay that they would receive would be in money and the other half in land. Many people came and brought horses and equipment to do the work. This was a very satisfactory arrangement for everyone. The immigrants had the skill and understanding of irrigation and would be able to establish personal farms, and the A.R. & I. would be assured that their land was farmed, thus giving them the development that they wanted for the benefit of their railroad.

Work was begun in 1899 on this project. The headgates were constructed at Kimball and the first furrough was made by C.O. Card for the ditch that was to carry the water. The original large canal was a big cut and required a lot of earth moving. The water was carried by the Pinepound Creek until it reached a point a short distance from Spring Coulee. It was then run in a ditch the rest of the way to Stirling.

By 1900 the ditch was finished and water was running to Stirling. In 1902 flood waters washed out a good portion of the main ditch near Kimball and it had to be rebuilt. The ditch was washed out again by flood waters in 1908, and rebuilt again.

Water from this ditch was being used in the towns of Magrath, Raymond and Stirling as well as on the farms. Irrigation ditches ran down the sides of the road so the water could be used in all parts of the towns.

The Kimball ditch was nearly a wasted effort, when the Americans decided that they would divert the St. Mary River into the Milk River and deplete the St. Mary River to a mere trickle in the middle of summer. The A.R. & I. decided to show the Americans that they would be able to still get water for their system from the Milk River by building a ditch just a couple miles west of Milk River to Raymond to redivert the water that the Americans were going to divert. This was call the "Spite Ditch". The Spite Ditch was built, and water ran in it for a couple of days which discouraged the Americans so they decided against the diversion.

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Copyright 2000
Mary Tollestrup