History of the Pondera County Canal & Reservoir Co.
The irrigation project dates back to the late 1800’s when W.G. Conrad and his brother acquired over 50,000 acres of land. They constructed a ditch system in excess of 50 miles in length to provide water for irrigating hay. Their diversions included one out of Lake Frances, near Valier. They sold shares in the company for irrigation of nearly 13,000 acres. The Conrad Brothers sold the company to W.G. Cargill and members of his family in 1908. M.S. Darling, the engineer who had constructed the ditch system for the Conrads, first conceived the idea of developing the project under the provisions of the Congressional Act of August 18, 1894, known as the “Carey Land Act”. The Act provided for irrigable land from Public Domain to be patented to the State. The project expanded to include this land. The PCCRC was originally incorporated in 1909 as the Teton County Canal and Reservoir Company, and the Articles of Incorporation were amended in 1927 changing its name to the Pondera County Canal & Reservoir Company. Construction of the project was completed in 1948 and in 1953, ownership was turned over to the PCCRC.
The original Swift Dam timber structure was destroyed by flood in June of 1964. Construction of the present day Swift Dam began in 1965 and was completed in 1967.
Since 1980, approximately 7 million dollars has been invested in infrastructure improvements. These improvements have been new diversions on Birch Creek, Dupuyer Creek, and the Dry Fork. Many drop structures, check structures and turnouts have been replaced. Most of the wasteways have been converted from open channel to pipeline. The Lake Frances East and North Dams have been rehabilitated.
PCCRC currently maintains Swift Dam, 360 miles of canals, hundreds of diversions and two dam structures on Lake Frances, the East Dam and the North Dam for delivery of water to the shareholders of the company.
Today there are approximately 80,480 shares held by 380 shareholders. Shares held by the City of Conrad provide the sole source of municipal water for the city. In 2009 50,800 acres were irrigated with water from the project for crops of barley, wheat, canola and hay.