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"In the early 1860's ranchers had been quick to claim the grassy lateral valleys; it was an easy step to irrigate along the creek and river bottoms. By the summer of 1864 all the river bottom land in Boise Valley was under irrigation. Pioneer farmers used sloughs and other natural depressions as links in their canals. Floods and washouts were common, but breaks were repaired with sagebrush and rocks. Farmers felt that prospecting for farms paid as well as prospecting for ledges. Gradually they expanded onto bench lands. But upstream diversion dams and canals required capital, so companies were organized. The key to the boose in agriculture was a dependable water system.

The Idaho legislature passed an act in 1881 entitling a person to file notice on a stream at the point of intended diversion and then record his claim, as miners did, at the county courthouse. Initial attempts were more costly than anticipated. In 1882 John H. Burns of New York organized the Idaho Mining and Irrigation Company and filed claims for 150,000 inches of Boise River water to be carried to both the east and west sides of the river valley. Not able to cover all costs of his intended project, Burns sold the rights to the west-side project to J. M. Stewart and James A. McGee of Philadelphia, who organized the Phyllis Canal. Their resources exhausted, they turned back the property to the Burms Company in 1888. A contract was let to complete the New York (east-side) and Phyllis (west-side) projects. By 1891 the Phyllis Canal extended thrity-five miles and had passed Nampa. Nevertheless, the Idaho Mining and Irrigation Company failed that year. The Phyllis and New York Canals, taken over by the construction company, were promptly disposed of to farmers in the area.

In the eastern end of Boise Valley, the Farmers' Cooperative Ditch started a canal in 1875 and sold it in 1887 to Howard Sebree, who completed construction to irrigate 22,000 acres. The proejct was sold in 1896 to the Irrigation and Colonization Company of Salt Lake City. Several Methodist ministers tapped the Boise River on the opposite side of the Farmers' Cooperative Ditch with the Riverside Canal. Ownership soon passed to Boise businessmen and the operation was called the Boise Land and Water Company, which brought 12,000 acres under irrigation. The Indian Valley Irrigation Company was organized in 1883 to irrigated an extensive area called Dixie Country. Another group completed a canal twenty miles long in Payette Valley. Similar projects were developed in the Bruneau, Owyhee, and Weiser valleys. By 1900, 76 canals, totaling 568 miles of main and lateral ditches, served almost a quarter of the total valley of 400,000 acres. Withouut these projects the whole area of the lower Snake would have remained desert, providing only scanty feed for cattle and passing bands of sheep."

Arrington, Leonard J. History of Idaho, Volume 1, page 473, University of Idaho Press, Moscow, Idaho State Historical Society, 1994

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