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Montana farmer-stockman. [volume] (Great Falls, Mont.) 1947-1993, November 01, 1948, Image 1

Image and text provided by Montana Historical Society; Helena, MT

Persistent link: https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn86075096/1948-11-01/ed-1/seq-1/

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W V No». 1, 1948
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—Bureau of Land Management Photos
Here is the first spring run-off caught on the redesigned dike systen of the Alzada project in Carter county. Snow still remains along the sides of the dike to ths
sight while the excellent job of water spreading can be seen to the left through the sage brush. Such irrigation increased carrying capacity by 350 percent
/ ■* HANGING the gumbo-hardpan sage
V/ land of southeastern Montana into pro
ductive range with 3 Va times the animal car
rying capacity it formerly rated sounds like
nothing short of miraculous, but it has been
accomplished on the Alzada water spread
ing project of the bureau of land manage
ment in Carter county.
According to Tom Dudley, range man
ager, bureau of land management, Miles
City, the secret of increasing forage on
this type of land lies in spreading the water
(mostly spring run-off and heavy flood
waters from rains) over the range with a
system of dikes that will hold the water
for a time but also allow it to flow around
and flood lower diked areas.
1,000-Acre Project
The project involved 1,000 acres of gumbo
land, much of which was cut up with deep
gullies and washed-out draws. The area was
one of baked, hardpan soil with sage brush
and very little range grass. Surrounding
hills formed a considerable drainage basin,
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but the water never stayed on the ground
long enough to do any good.
The work was begun," explained Dud
ley, "with the purpose of stopping the water
erosion and facilitating water spreading
through a system of dikes that would jn
turn allow the production of more forage
on the range."
Prior to construction, the 1,000 acres of
land were given an animal carrying capac
ity of 10 head but three years later this was
raised to 35 head, an increase of 3V2 times.
The cost of development was about $3 an
K <
The work was started in 1945 and fol
lowed along the usual lines considered
common practice in the area. The dikes
were laid out herringbone style, following
the practice of most ranchers in the area,
who diked across the cuts in a manner that
allows the water to spread but also flow
down the slope of the land. The slope here,
incidentally, was from Vz to IV 2 percent.
First Dikes Unsatisfactory
This initial diking, done with a motor
patrol grader, was unsuccessful in many
ways. The position of the dikes was scraped
clean by the blade and then the dirt was
thrown up onto the smooth surface. The
result was a lack of bond between the hard
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Here is Ihe gumbo hardpan sage land with sun
baked cracks before the water project was started.
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Here is the result of the water spreading seen two
years later — a good stand of native range grass
where only sage brush and a few straggling blades
of grass stood before. The men in the picture are,
left to right: Leon Huret, forest supervisor. Rocky
Mountain experiment station, Missoula; Larry Short,
chief of range research, range experiment station.
Miles City, and Tom Dudley, range manager, bureau
of land management Miles City.
surface floor and the new dike material.
This caused the dikes to wash out in many
Then too, the dikes were put where the
eye would say they should be and allowed
some grade so that the system would flow
smoothly. This was found to be an error,
and a contour map was drawn on the area.
The original system allowed the water to
flow too fast, and channels began to be .
formed. The dikes washed out that first
year, and a stock water reservoir built in
the CCC days also went out again.
The next year, the dikes were put in on
the contour of the land. Stakes were placed
to mark the position of the dikes and then
a two pronged ripper was used to rip up
the hard pan as deep as possible. Then a
bull dozer or motor patrol was used to
build up the 3 foot high dikes. Toward the
upper end of the system or in the lower
places, wherever it was assumed a con
siderable amount of sil^ would settle, the
(Please turn to page 12)
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