Beulah Williams Library Archives

Oahe Irrigation Project

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Oahe Irrigation Project

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Humble origins (timeline image)
Early United Family Farmer meetings were held in a one-room school near the Piper farm in Beadle County. Within several years membership in the organization exceeded 2,000, and annual meetings attracted almost 1,000 to festive events with guest…

George Piper
Interviewed September 15, 1988, rural Huron, SD.

Curt Hohn
United Family Farmer’s first executive director was Curt Hohn, a Northern State College graduate and a former aide to senator George McGovern. Hohn, a Plankinton, SD native, left Senator McGovern’s staff because he disagreed with the Senator’s…

Robert Hipple
Interviewed August 10, 1988 and April 21, 1989, Pierre, SD.

Three UFF leaders
United Family Farmers received capable, often extraordinary leadership from three key activists.
These men, (left to right) John Sieh, George Piper, and Curt Hohn, blended temperaments, creativity and determination. Their collaborative style of…

Senator George McGovern
Senator George McGovern became the most visible and vigorous champion for the Oahe project among elected officials in Washington DC. He and his staff provided political advice to Oahe supporters in South Dakota, and helped the Bureau of Reclamation…

The Pierre Canal
Construction of the 36-mile long Pierre Canal included the so-called “deep cut”, where this project feature would slice through a high ridge known as Medicine Knoll on its way to Blunt reservoir, another project feature. Depths through the 1.3-mile…

The Deep Cut
Work on the deepest portion of the Pierre Canal, the so-called “Deep Cut”, commenced in late June, 1976, despite loud protests by United Family Farmers. That November, United Family Farmers won control of the Oahe board and that board sought a…

Big plumbing
Construction on facilities necessary to divert and pump water from Oahe reservoir and convey it to the headworks of the Pierre Canal for eventual delivery to irrigation field in the James River valley involved a large system of pipes and pumps. …

Rivals reconcile
The political and business establishment in the Missouri River basin had endured ample frustration because of Missouri River flooding and the lack of reliable navigation conditions for commercial shippers, and it fell to two men to arrive at a plan…
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