Published June 6, 2018 at 03:23PM
The Three Sisters Irrigation District will, by 2020, accomplish something similar districts in the region can only dream about. It will have piped every inch of its 64-mile delivery system and, in the process, provided something good to just about everyone.
Whychus Creek may be the biggest winner of all. TSID draws its water from Whychus Creek, and before piping began the creek ran dry in the summer.
Now, 20 years into the piping project, it has 30 cubic feet per second of water year-round, water that must be left in the creek no matter what. That number, by the way, amounts to more than 13,000 gallons per minute. By 2020, it will have almost 35 cubic feet per second.
Fish, salmon and steelhead will be winners, too. They disappeared from Whychus Creek in about 1895, says Marc Thalacker, manager of TSID, four years after the oldest irrigation district in Deschutes County was created. He expects them back within a few years of the piping project’s completion.
The district’s 193 farms win, as well. While much of the water piping saves is being put back into the creek, farmers get more water, as well, about 25 percent more. More water can mean better farming, and that translates into more money to spend on farm equipment and other items in the community.
Finally, the district will benefit. Three hydro projects generating a total of about 4 million kilowatt-hours of electricity that will be purchased by electric utilities won’t pay the $50 million estimated tab for the full project, but the money will certainly help the effort.
Central Oregon owes a major chunk of its Euro-American presence to TSID and other irrigation districts formed in the late 1800s and early 1900s. The Carey Act of 1894, adopted by the state of Oregon in 1901, turned millions of acres of federal land over to the citizens of 10 western states for settlement. A key part of that settlement was irrigated farming, and the irrigation districts were formed to provide the water.
Irrigation still is key to agriculture in Central Oregon, but as the TSID piping project makes clear, agriculture can survive alongside native fish and other animals if it’s done right. Doing it right generally means piping.
Bend Bulletin Editorial
Published March 2, 2018
The Deschutes River is such a beauty it can be easy to forget it has serious problems. A leading one is that water in the river basin is not in the right place at the right time for people, farming and wildlife.
That problem became more acute when the Oregon spotted frog was listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act in 2014. There has already been one lawsuit over the frog. If the frog is not protected, lawsuits will drive the solutions. While that may be good for the frog, it will almost certainly have damaging repercussions throughout the basin.
Farmers in Jefferson County are particularly vulnerable. They could no longer have a reliable water source to farm. The farmers of the North Unit Irrigation District have been the leaders in the basin in implementing innovative irrigation practices to conserve water. But that doesn’t matter. They generally hold the most junior water rights. They would be among the first in line to lose.
Meeting the water supply needs of the basin doesn’t have to come to that. The U.S. Reclamation Bureau and the state Water Resources Department have committed some $1.5 million to identify solutions.
The study doesn’t set out to pick solutions. It aims to identify options, evaluate their effectiveness and cost. The options are basically piping, enabling leasing and selling of water rights and creating flexibility in storage.
The goal in most years is to cover a shortfall of water that is not where it needs to be of about 130,000 acre feet. Dry years can be triple that. An acre foot is the amount of water needed to cover an acre in a foot of water. It’s about 326,000 gallons.
Piping, leasing and selling can deliver that 130,000 acre feet and more. Piping helps make the leasing and selling easier. It comes with a higher price tag — the average for piping is about $5,000 per acre foot. Leasing and selling average about $400 per acre foot. Storage changes help facilitate more flexibility in the system.
Crunch some numbers and the costs would be millions upon millions. Where would it come from? That is unanswered.
If you want to be involved in the solution or a solution that isn’t dictated in the courts, check out the preliminary findings of the study’s working group. It will be holding open houses in Bend, Sunriver and Madras next week. More information is available by doing a web search for the Upper Deschutes Basin Study or check out the Deschutes River Conservancy’s website event page.
Central Oregon Irrigation District Announces Plans to Pipe Canal 3,000 Feet West From Brookswood Bridge
BY Cascade Business news
NOVEMBER 21, 2017 E-HEADLINES
Approximately 5 cubic feet per second of water
will be conserved in Deschutes River
Central Oregon Irrigation District (COID) has announced plans to begin piping approximately 3,000 feet of the irrigation canal from the Brookswood Bridge heading west. The timing of construction is dependent on the Bureau of Reclamation completing a National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA) analysis but is expected to begin in December 2017 and be completed by March 2018.
“Piping canals is a critical strategy in modern irrigation practices,” said Craig Horrell, COID district manager. “During the irrigation season, we lose approximately 50 percent of water to evaporation and seepage from canals and laterals. Piped canals mitigate these losses and conserve a significant portion of this water. These conservation efforts benefit fish and wildlife in the Deschutes River ecosystem, support sustainable agriculture and help Bend to manage its water resources for the future.”
According to Horrell, piping this portion of the canal will restore five cubic feet per second (cfs) to the Deschutes River. In addition, it prepares the property for future development that will help the District fund other conservation projects. Piping canals also reduces liability and increases safety in the water delivery system. The District will not hold back any water and 5 cfs represents 100 percent of the conserved water.
The pipe will be buried at grade level and, when the project is completed, COID will restore the trail creating a recreation experience similar to the trail in First Street Rapids Park between Pioneer Park and Sawyer Park in northwest Bend. This continues a partnership between COID and Bend Park and Recreation District (BPRD) to manage Central Oregon’s water resources and consider residential and recreation opportunities.
“Connecting people from the east side of Bend to the Deschutes River as part of the trail system is a long-held community vision. BPRD is excited to be partnering with COID to continue this work,” said Julie Brown, Bend Parks and Recreation District Communications and Community Manager. “This project serves as a great example of how public agencies can work together to meet community needs.”
Piping this portion of the canal will cost approximately $5 million. Funding is provided by a Bureau of Reclamation grant of $1.4 million, a $3.2 million loan from the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, and in-kind services and cash contributions from COID.