The American Falls Project of the Bureau of Reclamation, successor to the Reclamation Service, built in the 1910s and 1920s, assured late-season water for small cooperatives on the upper Snake, the thousands of farmers in the Twin Falls and North Side Projects and the Minidoka Project. It, too, was partly a brain-child of I.B. Perrine. The project required cooperation by federal, state and local governments, private interests and both corporate and individual proprietorships.
In later years expansion of the American Falls Project required the removal of the town of American Falls to higher ground because a new dam would flood the old town. This large concrete structure created a reservoir of 1.7 million acre-feet, to bring into cultivation an additional 115,000 acres in the vicinity of Gooding and provided supplemental water for over one million acres above and below the facility. Construction began in 1925, and the gates were closed upon completion in October, 1926. The reservoir first reached its maximum storage size on July 1, 1927.
of the Snake River Plain
Other dams and projects utilizing tributary waters of the Snake or the main stream itself have been installed throughout southern Idaho (Idaho Yesterdays, 1986). Upstream from Idaho Falls, Palisades Dam and Reservoir were finished in 1959. This is a major facility used as a balancing source of stored water to maintain stream flows and provide late-season irrigation. In addition to projects on every irrigable acre along the Bear River and its tributaries, irrigation systems exist on the Teton River east of Rexburg, the Blackfoot River (which provides water via the Fort Hall Canal to the east side of Pocatello), the Portneuf River in Marsh Valley, Goose Creek south of Burley, Raft River, and Salmon Falls Creek which rises in Nevada and flows into the Snake west of Buhl. Farther north and west in Idaho are Arrowrock and Lucky Peak Dams on the Boise River (which were Arthur Foote's ideas) and the large Dworshak Dam and Reservoir on a fork of the Clearwater River above Lewiston.
With so many structures and systems involved with storing and utilizing water in agricultural pursuits, it is little wonder that the weather and the moisture it brings are matters of continual interest to southern Idahoans. It is little short of a miracle to compare the Magic Valley near Twin Falls today with the same place one hundred years ago. The desert has been made to bloom.
farming is expensive, and the United States Taxpayers, over the last 100
years, have paid the bill. Although farmers might resent the assertion,
irrigation in Idaho has been heavily subsidized. Indeed, so are many crops.
One Magic Valley farmer is alleged to have said, about the total cost
of irrigated farming," The only cash crop that would bear the true
cost of the water is marijuana."
and the Great Depression
Leonard Arrington, later Professor of History at Utah State University, wrote about farming near Twin Falls during the Depression
Perhaps a word of personal recollection may not be inappropriate. My father a farmer east of Twin Falls decided that 1929 was a good year to expand his farming acreage, and after much soul-searching he finally purchased a tract of sixty acres of rich apple orchard land, paying $300 per acre. He planned to raise potatoes, and Grade A potatoes in 1929 were selling for $1.50 per bushel. At such a price, and considering his big family of boys, he could envision paying for the land within a few years. But in 1930 when he harvested the first crop, potatoes were selling for only 75 cents a hundred. In 1931 the land yielded well, but potatoes were down to 50 cents per hundred. In 1932, as the Depression continued to deepen, run-of-the-field "spuds" brought 10 cents per sack. I was 15 years old at the time, and while helping to load several truckloads of these ten-cent "spuds", I asked my father, "What do you suppose people will pay for these potatoes in grocery stores?" My father said he didn't know, but why didn't I find out?
Under my father's direction I prepared ten letters which were placed in representative sacks on different truckloads. The letters indicated where the potatoes were produced, mentioned the ten-cent price per sack, included a self-addressed envelope, and asked the final purchaser to reply what he had paid. As I recall, we received five replies from the ten we had enclosed in the sacks. All of the replies were from California, and the price paid by the ultimate purchaser had varied from a low of $1.50 per sack to a high of $2.15 per sack....
How my father ever held on to the land and made the payments I was never able to find out. My mother said it was by the labor of her boys, but that may have been her way of making us feel important....
There were persons in our neighborhood who had made similar investments who did not have the boys to do the work nor wives who could manage to "get along" on virtually no income. Sometime during the winter of 1932-33 a family acquaintance was foreclosed by his creditor, and a sheriff's sale ordered for a certain Monday. All the farmers in his neighborhood gathered together on Sunday evening and agreed upon a plan to help their friend. They would attend the sale and refuse to bid against each other. The next day, as the auctioneer went through his accustomed chant, a splendid team of horse sold for $1.50... Prices of other animals and equipment ran from a low of 50 cents to a high of $3.00. The farmers duly paid the sums they had bid, received the items purchased, and promptly turned them back to the farmer who had been foreclosed."(arrington, (1969), in Etulain and Marley, 1974, p.131).