18 years, cleans
20 miles of canals
By JOHN O'CONNELL
The Cub Scouts with Pack 11 of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints were assigned to clean eight blocks of the Idaho Canal, which runs through Idaho Falls.
Their trash bags were heavy with refuse, however, before they'd ventured out of eyesight from their starting point. As Nicole Cook and her 10-year-old daughter, Keyarra, struggled to free a faded carpet remnant affixed to a bridge support, the den leader assured the children every piece of garbage they removed would help a local farmer.
The pack members and their siblings are among the 34 teams with a combined work force of at least 250 people participating in an Adopt a Canal event from March 24 through April 22.
The 18-year-old program, sponsored by the East Side-West Side Soil and Water Conservation District, tidies about 20 miles of Bonneville County canals annually. It also covers the Progressive Irrigation and New Sweden Irrigation canals in the rural county.
"We needed to do community service with our boys, and the canal was convenient and close by where we meet," Cook said.
Teams may call 208-522-6250, ext. 101, to register. Orange vests and garbage bags are available at 1120 Lincoln Road, Suite A, in the Idaho Falls USDA Farm Service center. Joyce Smith, administrative assistant with the soil and water conservation districts, said participating organizations are diverse including jail work crews, 4-H clubs, zoo staff, large families and cattle groups.
"A lot of times, especially in the city, when there's no water in the canals, people look at those as a great dumping site for garbage," Smith said. "The teams collect old mattresses, bicycles, batteries, tires, you name it. There's massive pickup loads that groups take out from the same canals every year."
By the new housing developments east of Idaho Falls, she said building contractors tend to dump surplus materials in the canals. Homeowners sometimes use them to dispose of grass clippings, which are especially hard on farmers' irrigation pumps.
The program was started by Louis Thiel, who serves on the boards of both the West Side Soil and Conservation District and the New Sweden Irrigation District. He's heard from several irrigators convinced the program has saved their pumps.
"A lot of them say it's not nearly as bad as it used to be," said Thiel, a retired farmer.