When I was growing up on a little farm outside Meridian, water appeared in the Treasure Valley’s canals every spring as if by magic. Irrigation season meant hard work, of course—seemingly endless rounds of setting canvas dams and shepherding rivulets of water between rows of corn and tomatoes and squash—but in the process my world turned from sere brown to green, and there were snakes and frogs to stalk in the fields and ditches.
Now, decades later, I know that our farm’s lifeblood flowed thanks to the Boise Project, the ambitious irrigation system that made southwestern Idaho’s desert bloom. And tracing that lifeblood back through Lake Lowell and up the New York Canal and the Boise River, I’ve learned how Arrowrock Dam—that vast and forbidding structure my parents took me to see as a child—came to be the project’s grandest achievement. Continue reading →