Updated water source installed for Hardin athletic fields

Local residents, businesses collaborate to tap into Two Leggins water
Thursday, November 1, 2018
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Courtesy photo

Shawn Nedens of Nedens Farms runs an excavator this summer along North Mitchell Avenue in Hardin. Together with the help of the school district maintenance staff, Nedens was able to do all of the trenching for the irrigation project.

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Courtesy photo

Prior to completion, the inside of the pump house shows the pump and variable speed motor. It since has been finished, with help from the Hardin School District summer maintenance staff.

The Hardin School District has a new water source on the way, due to a coordinated effort by several local residents. The project involved lots of digging and boring in order to complete a total overhaul of the water supply system used to water the school’s practice fields along North Miles Avenue.

Torske Law Office provided legal support for the project, negotiating with the school and the water authorities, and Shawn Nedens led the way with an offer to tap into the pre-existing Two Leggins Water. With approval from the Two Leggins Water Users Association granted, a trenching and boring operation took place earlier this summer.

“There were just a lot of people that did a lot of work, and didn’t charge anything to get this project completed for the school district,” former school board member Thor Torske explained. “I think this is one of many of these types of projects that are going to start happening. Now we’re going to use non-chlorinated water, so this water that comes out of the ditch is straight out of the Bighorn River.”

With the help of Mike Erickson, the athletic director for Hardin High School, and with Evan VanOrder of the Natural Resources Conservation Service, the plan was implemented, which will save the school thousands of dollars on water each year.

“We had to bore under Mitchell and Vanzandt in order to reach the school from the existing Two Leggins lateral irrigation line,” Torkse said.

The boring and the trenching are all complete, and with the help of summer staff and maintenance staff from the school district, a new pump house was completed on site. The system inside the pump house uses a VFD motor – or variable speed – and can be set up to supply the entirety of the school’s water needs, whether they be in one field or another, or all the fields simultaneously.

“We can irrigate all 10 acres with this system at once,” Torske said.

Historically, the school district paid between $40-55,000 to the city of Hardin annually in order to irrigate its athletic fields. With the new system in place, that bill has dropped to $434 per year, which is the fee paid to Two Leggins for accessing their water. This means the 10.84 acres of practice fields will be watered at less than one percent of the previous cost, not accounting for electrical fees.

Big Horn County Electric Co-op is credited with providing the new electrical service to the pump house, and Chad Guptil and the school district maintenance staff were instrumental in coordinating all of the moving parts, from the boring which took place under North Mitchell Avenue and Vanzandt Road, to the line work for Big Horn County Electric and pump house construction. FUF Farms also donated fuel and pipe needed for the construction.

Of the actual watering process, Torske explains, “We’re going to continue using the existing big guns. [Previously], these big guns required gas to pump up the pressure, and this system inside the pump house pressurizes everything with no gas required. You’re running an electric motor, but just the gas that was required to run those big guns was amazing – above and beyond the $60,000 cost.”

Overall cost for construction of the project was $66,895. As part of the NRCS agreement, irrigation water will also be supplied to Big Horn Industries and the Hardin Community Gardens, which now have free irrigation water to “use as they see fit.”

In order to use the new system to water the actual lawns around the school, however, the project would require further boring under North Miles Avenue. Since the boring contributed to most of the expense of the project – at approximately $20,000 – for now the lawns around the school will continue to be watered as they have in the past.

“We could do the lawn irrigation system around the high school,” Torske said. “But, at this point, we’re [set].”