McClusky Canal Irrigation

McClusky Canal Irrigation

The McClusky Canal is a major feature in the Garrison Diversion Unit Principal Supply Works. The canal is approximately 74 miles long and carries water from Lake Audubon to the west side of the Lonetree Wildlife Management Area. Based on the Garrison Diversion Unit legislation in 1965, the canal was designed to carry 1,950 cubic feet per second (cfs) of water for irrigation of 250,000 acres, as well as to provide water for municipal and rural water systems. 

A promise of the original legislation, authorized irrigation development has been reduced numerous times with changes in federal legislation. Currently, the McClusky Canal service area is authorized for a total of 23,700 acres of irrigation. Canal-side irrigation is authorized up to 10,000 acres and the adjacent Turtle Lake area has 13,700 acres authorized. 

In an effort to utilized the authorized acres along the McClusky Canal, Garrison Diversion has been working with producers since 2010 to expand irrigation development. Currently, there are 11 irrigation projects along the McClusky Canal irrigating nearly 8,000 acres.

A benefit to producers irrigating from the McClusky Canal is the promise of project pumping power, a reduced rate of pumping the water out of the canal. Project pumping power is part of the promise from the federal government in return for flooding thousands of acres of prime farmland to operate and build Garrison Dam and Lake Sakakawea.

Garrison Diversion has secured two long-term contracts to assist irrigators; a water service contract with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation) and a power contract with the Western Area Power Administration.

The Reclamation contract is a 40-year contract with the United States government through Reclamation to provide irrigation water using the McClusky Canal. The contract ensures access to canal water until at least 2051. It is the first long-term irrigation water service contract signed by Garrison Diversion and Reclamation since the project was first authorized.

United States Bureau of Reclamation


Please contact Kip Kovar with Garrison Diversion at 701-652-3194 or via email at


Irrigation Master Plan
Garrison Diversion developed an irrigation master plan identifying the long-term vision for future development of the McClusky Canal. Because the canal is authorized to irrigate 18,000 more acres than are currently being irrigated, the irrigation master plan is an important step toward using the canal to its full potential.

Garrison Diversion will use the irrigation master plan to guide the future development of the McClusky Canal and ensure family farmers continue to have access to reliable, high-quality, and affordable water to allow their farms to grow and prosper. The irrigation master plan will help regionalize the central supply works, which include pump stations, power, and transmission lines to serve as many irrigators as possible at the lowest possible cost.