1965 Irrigation Districts Created
After much controversy and many contentious public meetings, citizens with lands in two proposed irrigation districts along the James River –the West Brown and Spink irrigation districts- voted to approve formation of two irrigation districts. The federal government demanded that public interest in water projects be clearly demonstrated, and formation by election of conservancy and irrigation districts reflected public support for a project.
It is also noteworthy that landowners in an irrigation district would be taxed to help pay to maintain an irrigation project’s infrastructure, including ditches, pumps, drainage systems, and other costly features. The federal government would bear much of the expense to build the project, but once completed operations and maintenance expenses would be paid by local taxpayers. To eliminate or minimize political interference, irrigation district organizers decided to dramatically downsize the irrigation districts by deleting lands in the proposed districts that belonged to landowners opposing irrigation. This strategy prevented Oahe project opponents from voting in the irrigation district elections. Opponents protested that despite having their lands removed from the districts, they would still be impacted by features of the irrigation project, such as water delivery and water drainage ditches, and would still be subject to conservancy sub-district taxation. This strategy created irrigation districts lacking contiguous lands, and possessing, instead, checkboard patterns of involved lands.