Bench flume - September 29, 1937
Previous to 1919. This division of the Yakima Project (now the Roza Irrigation District) was included in the area broadly covered by the so-called "Highline Canal". Christian Anderson made surveys in 1912, in the interest of an association covering the whole valley. These surveys contemplated a diversion near Easton, and the irrigation of the Kittitas, Moxee, Roza, and Kennewick Divisions as well as some 140,000 acres between the North Slope of the Rattlesnake Hills and the Columbia River. His scheme was found infeasible due to the limited water supply above Easton and due to the contemplated construction difficulties.
August 1, 1917. The Reclamation Service, under the direction of Mr. C.E. Crownover, made surveys to determine the most feasible plan for development of the lands that could be irrigated by water from the Yakima River and its tributaries. These studies were originally carried on at the expense of the Reclamation Service, and later under contracts with the Kennewick, Moxee, and Roza Divisions.
March 1919. A Board of Engineers definitely decided to divide the so-called "Highline" scheme into the Kennewick, Moxee, Roza, and Kittitas Divisions and to have future studies made on each division separately.
March 8, 1920. A petition was filed with the Yakima County Commissioners to establish the "Yakima-Benton Irrigation District" (now the Roza Irrigation District) comprising some 45,000 acres of land in the Roza Division.
April 16, 1920. After an election was held relative to the proposed district and its proposed Board of Directors, the Yakima County Commissioners declared the District "organized". Further, they declared that H. Lloyd Miller, Ross Morris, and A.D. Patterson were the duly elected Board of Directors.
July 6, 1920. The Yakima-Benton Irrigation District entered into a contract with the U.S. Reclamation Service for further investigation and report on the Roza Division. The district provided $15,000 toward the investigation effort.
July 8, 1921. A storage contract was executed with the Reclamation Service for 285,000-acre feet of water. The U.S.R.S. investigation revealed that the district could serve a total of 72,000 acres by pumping to 27,000 acres of land above the 45,000 acres under the gravity system. They further recommended the district be enlarged to serve all lands contemplated. The district furnished additional funds for more studies, not to exceed $40,000.
April 15, 1935. The above storage contract was supplemented to provide for 375,000 acre feet of water for the district. The water was to be provided from storage and natural flow for a cost of approximately $2,500,000. Repayment of the $2,500,000 would be made in 80 semi-annual installments, beginning with the June 15 payment following the first season in which water was available for diversion by the district. These contracts are in effect at this time and payments are incorporated into the July 22, 1953 repayment contract. Although the Roza Division was part of the "ten year irrigation plan" provided by the Department of the Interior in 1927, construction had been delayed for lack of funding.
September 18,1935. President Franklin D. Roosevelt approved an allocation of $5,000,000 (later reduced to $4,000,000) from the Emergency Relief Funds to begin construction of Roza Dam and the irrigation distribution system.
December 13, 1935. A contract with the Reclamation Service to construct the irrigation distribution system was executed after landowners, by vote on November 9, agreed to assume the obligation to repay some $15,000,000 in construction costs.
January 9, 1936. A contract for the construction of Tunnels #1, 2, and 3 was awarded to Morrison-Knudsen Co. of Boise, ID. The company started excavation of Tunnel #3 on February 6. On June 19 excavators uncovered the fossilized remains of a mastodon in the tunnelís path. Many contracts were let in 1936 and following years. Mr. C.E. Crownover was the Construction Engineer for the Reclamation Service.
November 2, 1938. The Yakima-Benton Irrigation District changed its name to the Roza Irrigation District. At this time, the boundary was changed increasing the districtís size from 45,000 acres to 72,000 acres. Construction proceeded, as funds were available.
December 1939. The Reclamation Service performed an operational test of the upper section of the main canal. Marked the first water diverted into the Roza Irrigation District system.
1941. Block #1 received water for irrigation of crops.
November 16, 1942. The War Production Board stopped all construction except that necessary to place 6,100 acres under irrigation for the 1943 season.
1943 to 1951. Construction proceeded as funds and materials were available. Most of the construction was completed by 1951. The Bureau of Reclamation (formerly the Reclamation Service) operated the distribution system for the district, at the districtís expense, through 1960.
January 1, 1961. The Bureau of Reclamation turned the operation of the distribution system over to the district, retaining operation of Roza Dam, the power plant, and the upper 11 miles of the main canal. The Board of Directors retained Mr. Van E. Nutley, PE as manager in July 1960 prior to the districtís assumption of the system operation. A good number of the Reclamation personnel switched to district employment, assisting in a smooth transition.
1961. A program of outlet drain construction began.
1973. The first union contract was signed with Laborers #614. The ditchriders were no longer required to live in district houses and the district started furnishing district vehicles. Prior to this, ditchriders were provided mileage.
1977. This year was one of the most eventful in the history of the Roza Irrigation District. Early predictions by the Bureau of Reclamation of only 6% of normal water supply for the district prompted many immediate actions by both the district and individual farmers. Many farmers with permanent crops faced total ruin if adequate water supplies could not be obtained. Expensive, deep wells were drilled, pumps were installed on drains, and lands were leased speculating on the water they might receive. Over 14,000 acres were left idle and another 1,000 acres was dry-cropped to make more water available for permanent crops. Wheat and barley were substituted for higher water-use crops such as sugar beets and potatoes. Subsequent reallocations by Reclamation eventually brought the district to 70% of normal water supply, but for most farmers, it came too late. Investment in other water sources had already been made. The State and Federal governments made grants and low interest loans to many landowners to help defray some of the overwhelming costs of these emergency projects. The district to help utilize some of the available funding also established local improvement districts (LIDís). The district explored the possibility of acquiring Columbia River water. However, the financing of such a monumental project to provide a system for the pumplift involved, the long conveyance system required, and the time to accomplish the task led to the planís demise.
February 26, 1980. In response to a landowner petition, the district held a special election to increase the membership of the Board of Directors from three to five. The landowners voted in favor of the increase. The district was divided into five director divisions on April 15, by order of the Yakima County Commissioners.
1984. The Board of Directors officially adopted a long-term rehabilitation program of district conveyance facilities with a targeted completion date of 20 years. Various elements of the program will be constructed each year by district forces. A major part of this effort is to pipe all laterals, beginning with gravity lands.
1988. The first of three proposed re-regulation reservoirs was constructed at Wasteway #6.
1992. The district initiated a program of installing check structures at strategic locations along the main canal. The first of these automated check structures was constructed at M.P. 77.3. The plan is to install at least one check structure per year until completion. Also, the district prepared a comprehensive water conservation plan for the Washington State Department of Ecology. The plan was required for the allocation of state money for conservation measures.
1992 through 1994. The longest sustained drought period in the history of the district occurred. Water supplies were critically curtailed, with supplies of only 58%, 67%, and 37% respectively. The 37% supply in 1994 was the worst water shortage ever experienced by the district. The accumulative effect of short water supplies damaged permanent crops causing financial hardship on growers and the district.
1994. The second of three proposed re-regulation reservoirs was constructed at Wasteway #7.
1996. The Roza and Sunnyside Valley Irrigation Districts formed a Board of Joint Control to plan, implement and administer joint projects and/or programs. The board consists of the five Roza Irrigation District directors, five Sunnyside Valley Irrigation District directors, and two members from Sunnyside Division entities.
1997. The Roza-Sunnyside Board of Joint Control hired a Communications director, a Safety and Health Coordinator, and a Water Quality Specialist. Their duties involve serving within their respective capacities for both districts.
March 1997. Efforts to extricate abandoned cars from Siphon 5 prior to water startup resulted in a catastrophe. Two divers who went into the siphon failed to return to the surface. Two rescue divers who went in after the original team met with the same fate. It was the severest fatality accident ever to befall district activities.