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Preston Bench Project

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Preston Bench Project History (39 KB) (pdf)
General Description| Plan| Development| Benefits


General Description

The Preston Bench Project, located in southeastern Idaho near the town of Preston, includes Mink Creek Canal which supplies irrigation water for 5,000 acres of highly developed land in the vicinity of Preston.

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The Mink Creek Canal replaced a privately constructed canal that was seriously threatened by landslides, was costly to maintain, and posed a constant financial threat to the water users. The canal water also provides additional water to project users.

Water is carried from Mink Creek through the project facilities to Worm Creek, from which it is diverted into privately built laterals and conveyed to project lands. Some of the project lands receive a partial supply through another canal system.

Facility Descriptions

Mink Creek Canal

Mink Creek Canal is earthlined, trapezoidal, and extends from a point on Mink Creek, 9 miles above its confluence with the Bear River, southward 15 miles to Worm Creek northeast of Preston. The canal has a diversion capacity of 36 cubic feet per second. The major structure on the canal is Station Creek Tunnel, which pierces a prominent divide between Station Creek and Worm Creek. It is a concrete lined, 6.5foot horseshoe tunnel.

Operating Agencies

The project is operated and maintained by the Preston, Riverdale, and Mink Creek Canal Company.

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The first settlement of Preston Bench was established in 1866 near the present site of Preston, Idaho, which was founded in 1877. Wherever settlement occurred in the area, irrigation was practiced to some degree. Early development of irrigation measures on Preston Bench was started with the construction and completion of a canal from Mink Creek in 1889. During the winter of 1919-1920, a landslide on the Bear River Bluff demolished 850 feet of the canal. A new section was constructed around the slide area and lined with concrete in the spring of 1920. During the following winter, the new concrete canal section was demolished by another slide. Other catastrophes caused by the unstable terrain in the Bear River Bluff area occurred in 1921, 1922, 1926, 1935 (when a tunnel caved in), 1936, 1937, 1941, and 1943, with evidence of other slides appearing during 1946 and 1947.


Because potential slides threatened loss of the water supply, the Bureau of Reclamation undertook an investigation and issued a report recommending construction of an entirely new canal and tunnel in different terrain. The Congress authorized the project and appropriated money for construction during the fiscal year beginning July 1, 1948.


The project was authorized by the 80th congress, act of June 15, 1948 (62 Stat. 442).


Construction began in October 1948 and was completed on November 23, 1949, when water first flowed through the entire length of Mink Creek Canal and through the Station Creek Tunnel. The project was placed in regular service in May 1950.



Principal crops produced are alfalfa, wheat, barley, oats, and pasture. Preston is the town which benefits most from the project farms.

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Last updated: May 11, 2011