When the Big Wood Project was started in 1907, precipitation records for the river's drainage system were not very old and the worst droughts on record were yet to come. The original estimates of available water for the project proved too optimistic, the land and water rights were eventually oversold.
By 1916 nearly 120,000 acres in the project had been patented to the state and some 89,000 acres had been taken as Carey Act claims. Water shortages occurred.
In 1920, federal funds were provided for preliminary surveys for a dam at American Falls, Idaho. The original concept of the dam was attributed to the developer of the South Side Project at Twin Falls, Idaho. By 1924, plans for construction of American Falls Dam were underway.
Due to the above mentioned water shortages occurring and the land and water rights being oversold, this created the need to obtain water from the American Falls Dam project. Thereby water users in Lincoln and nearby counties signed a petition to form the American Falls Reservoir District No. 2 and approved the organization of the district. In Lincoln County the commissioner approved the organization of American Falls Reservoir District No. 2 on July 20, 1925.
On July 25, 1925 the construction of American Falls Dam was started. Before it could be built, the town of American Falls, on the Snake River had to be moved to higher ground. In addition, the waters of the reservoir eventually covered the original site of Fort Hall and Indian reservation land.
In 1927, after several years of low precipitation it became evident that the Big Wood Canal Company needed more water. A contract was entered into between the Government and American Falls Reservoir District No. 2 for the construction of the Milner-Gooding Canal and for 4/17 of the storage capacity of American Falls Reservoir.
Construction of the American Falls Dam was completed on April 27, 1927. American Falls Reservoir contains 1,700,000 acre-feet of water. It has a shore line of 125 mile, with an area of 65,000 acres of land.
In 1928, construction began on the Milner-Gooding Canal on the Gooding Division of the Minidoka Project. The Bureau of Reclamation built the canal and laterals for the new lands. The canal starts just east of the Milner Dam located on the Snake River. This 76 mile canal extends to the North Gooding Main Canal northwest of Shoshone, Idaho.
Milner Dam was authorized for construction as a privately capitalized venture under the 1894 Carey Act, a precursor to the 1902 Reclamation Act. Ira Burton Perrine, a local rancher, chose the site and recruited financial backers. The Buhl-Kimberly Corporation built the dam in 1903 - 1905. Milner Dam's primary purpose is irrigation but it also produces hydroelectricity. It is currently owned and operated by Milner Dam, Inc.
Milner Dam is a rock fill dam near Hazelton, Idaho. It impounds the Snake River in a reservoir named Milner Lake. The storage capacity is 36,300 acre feet. The lake covers 4,000 acres. The dam spans the river across two islands, with three embankments. The dam is 73 feet high and 2,160 feet long.
In 1931, the first part of the canal was completed and water flowed for the first time. It extended from Milner Dam to the Little Wood River near Shoshone, Idaho. At this point, part of the water enters the Little Wood River and proceeds to east of Gooding, Idaho where some water is diverted into the South Gooding Main Canal and some water continues to the Carpenter Canal west of Gooding. Back where the water enters the Little Wood River at Shoshone, part of it goes under the Little Wood and continues to the North Shoshone area and some water onto the North Gooding Main Canal, northeast of Gooding.
The completion of the Milner-Gooding Canal meant changes in the original Big Wood River Project to the extent that about 36,000 acres above the new canal was to receive water from its original source, but the land below the canal was to be irrigated with Snake River water. This plan, which was carried out, reduced the land in the Big Wood River Project to about 1/3 its original size.
In 1932, Title to the Milner-Gooding Canal and all appurtenant structures was transferred to the American Falls Reservoir District No. 2 which took over the operation of the canal and the water delivery.
We operate with two Board of Directors. There are seven members on the American Falls Reservoir District Board and nine members on the Big Wood Canal Board. We had two offices. The American Falls District office was located in Gooding, Idaho and Big Wood Canal office was located in Shoshone, Idaho. On August 8, 1972 the American Falls office moved in with the Big Wood office in Shoshone. The Milner-Gooding Canal and it connection laterals furnish a full water supply for 20,000 acres and a supplemental supply for 78,667 acres. The initial capacity of the canal is 2,700 cubic feet per second. On the American Falls side, we run on a continuous basis of 5/8" per share but allow up to 115% delivery.
American Falls Reservoir Dist. No. 2's Water
The Establishment of the Company
BIG WOOD CANAL COMPANY
AMERICAN FALLS RESERVOIR DIST. NO. 2