First Native American woman on the Colville Reservation to Install a Center Pivot Irrigation System
First Native American woman on the Colville
Reservation to Install a Center Pivot Irrigation System
Installing a Center Pivot Irrigation System will
help Janet Pakootas save valuable water resources in an area with limited
Installing the center pivot irrigation
system will help Janet Pakootas save valuable water resources in an area
with limited availability.
Okanogan County, near Nespelem
Bringing the past up to the present
Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), and the Colville Reservation
Twenty years ago, Janet Pakootas’ family was harvesting hay on allotted land
which was being irrigated with a wheel line irrigation system. When some family
members passed away, the land went into probate. This meant that nothing could
be done to the land until the probate was completed and divided up into equal
parts for the rest of the family. During that time, the weeds took over and the
irrigation system deteriorated.
When Janet received control of the land she wanted to get it back into working
order. Janet, who is a beginning farmer, wanted to get rid of the weeds,
upgrade the irrigation system and have better management of her livestock. She
also wanted to plant a windbreak along one side of her place to protect the
wildlife against the winter weather. Janet decided to sign-up for the
Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP).
It took about a year to install the center pivot irrigation system due to
electrical policy concerns. “Now I can have hay for my animals and other Tribal
members and not have to go off the reservation to buy it” said Janet. She is
utilizing a smaller amount of water with the upgraded irrigation system, which
is good for when quantities are low. Weed control is a major concern on the
reservation and she feels she is doing her part to manage this problem.
Assistance was provided by NRCS through the EQIP which helped upgrade the
irrigation system. The program also assisted with cross fencing and water
troughs for livestock. Janet is also completing nutrient and pest management
It was exciting to know that NRCS looks at each producer as an individual.
Normally, in order to upgrade an irrigation system, it has to be irrigated two
out of the last five years. Because of her situation with probate laws, NRCS
waived the year limits because the land had been irrigated up to the day probate
took over. It is great to know that Janet is the first person, as well as the
first Native American woman, to have a center pivot irrigation system on the
Colville Reservation. Even as a beginning farmer, Janet knew that if she could
install this system, it would improve the quality and quantity of water – the
NRCS has always turned money back to the state from the Tribal pool because
there hasn’t been enough interest in EQIP. Since the pivot has been installed,
more people have been coming in to sign-up for conservation assistance. This is
the first year we have more applicants than we can assist.