KRD History

Expansion of irrigation in the Kittitas Valley originated with diversion of natural flows from creeks within the valley. The Manastash Canal was the first organized development beginning in 1872. This diversion was from Manastash Creek, and served approximately 1,700 acres. Subsequent construction included: Taneum Ditch, taking water out of Taneum Creek in 1873 - 1874 serving roughly 3,700 acres; the Ellensburg Town Canal with diversion from the Yakima River in 1885 - 1889 serving about 7,000 acres; the Olson Ditch, originally used as a power canal for a sawmill in 1870, then rebuilt in 1890 to serve approximately 1,200 acres; the Bull Ditch started in 1886 to serve 1,300 acres; and the Cascade Canal constructed in 1903 - 1904 to serve 12,000 acres.

Early records contain a proposal in 1885 for the "High Line" canal that would divert water from the Teanaway River. In 1889, the County Commissioners appropriated $1,500 for a survey of the proposed canal near Easton. Subsequent efforts to construct a "High Line" canal began in 1891 with the organization of the Middle Kittitas Irrigation District. This strategy was to irrigate 23,000 acres from a canal roughly 240 feet lower in elevation than the present day KRD canal. Construction started but ended quickly, with very little accomplished, due to financial difficulties.

On September 25, 1911, the KRD was organized. An issuance of bonds in the amount of $5,000,000 was planned to finance the construction of an irrigation system but these funds were not appropriated. Other financial plans also failed. As early as 1905 the USBR began investigating the feasibility of including the Kittitas Division in the Yakima Project. Later, local requests and support prompted the USBR to complete an engineering report on January 15, 1925, which included the present plan of development. Additionally, a Soil and Economic Conditions Report of the Proposed Kittitas Unit, dated September 13, 1924, was prepared by the USBR, United States Department of Agriculture, Washington State College, and University of California staff. This report was favorable, so federal funds were appropriated for construction of the KRD. Construction began in 1925.

The original federal water supply contract with the KRD was dated February 16, 1921, and the first construction contract was dated December 19, 1925. The KRD construction was completed in 1933. Major structures in the KRD system are the Easton Diversion Dam, the Main Canal, the North Branch Canal, and the South Branch Canal. The Easton Diversion Dam is 248 feet long and 65 feet high. The dam was completed in 1929. Construction of the Main Canal and South Branch Canal, which are 26 and 14.2 miles long respectively, were completed in 1929. The North Branch Canal is 36 miles in length and was completed in 1933.

The original land classification report for the KRD contained several flaws that resulted in some land being classified as irrigable when it actually had areas of shallow soil, steep slopes, and rocks. The reclassification of soils during the years of 1940 to 1943 resulted in an adjusted irrigable area of 56,432 acres. As an outcome of the 1948 Economic Report and Repayment Plan, an Amendatory Contract dated January 20, 1949 was completed between the United States and the KRD. That contract adjusted the KRD’s repayment burden, annual repayment formula, and restated the schedule and amount of water to be furnished.

A write up of the formation and construction of the KRD is also available on History Link.



Easton before dam, May 1928.

Easton area before the dam.

May, 1928.



Easton Lake after the dam.

May, 1930.

Easton after dam, May 1930.


Easton Dam, July 1931.

Easton Dam.

July, 1931.


Cle Elum Farmer.

July, 1931.

Cle Elum Farmer, July 1931.

Near the same site, 2007.


Wipple Pumping Plant Site, June 1932.

Wipple Pumping Plant Site.

June, 1932.

Wipple Pumping Plant 1999

Wipple Pumping Plant Site.

April, 1999.


Return to KRD Homepage