Editorial: Don’t let Deschutes River problems wind up in lawsuits


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.


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Central Oregon Irrigation District Announces Plans to Pipe Canal 3,000 Feet West From Brookswood Bridge

BY Cascade Business news 



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.



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COID Planning to Pipe Part of Bend Canal

KBND News Talk

11-16-2017​​ by Danise Lee


BEND, OR -- Central Oregon Irrigation District plans to begin piping 3,000 feet of its main canal west from the Brookswood Bridge, in southwest Bend. 


COID's ShanRae Hawkins says this move will not only benefit the ecology of the Deschutes River, but also the residents of the area. "Piping canals is a really important part of the irrigation system. When we have open canal systems, we lose about 50% of the water that's coming in off the Deschutes River to evaporation and leakage. And so, by piping the canals, we're able to conserve a significant amount of water and all of these conservation efforts directly benefit the wildlife." But, conserving five cubic feet of water per second won't be the only benefit of the piping project, according to Hawkins. "The pipe is going to be buried, and we're going to build trails over the top of it, we're working with Bend Parks and Rec, and so people won't even realize that they're walking over the top of a piped canal. And so, aesthetically, it's going to be very appealing, and it's a great partnership between Bend Parks and Rec and Central Oregon Irrigation District and we're excited to have a great new trail system that really hasn't existed in the past."


Hawkins tells KBND News, "The projected start date is December to January. The process of getting the contractor lined up and getting the pipe in will really dictate when we start the process. Certainly, if we have a really heavy snowfall this winter like we had last year, it could slow the process down, but the project will be completed by the end of March of 2018 because we have to have the system back up and running in time for irrigation season which starts in April." During construction, stock runs will not take place, and COID is working with local agriculturalists to ensure they still get the monthly water they require.


Piping this portion of the canal will cost approximately $5 million, with funding provided by a grant from the Bureau of Reclamation, a loan from the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, and in-kind services and cash contributions from COID.




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Irrigation districts increase winter flows

Bend Bulletin

Published Nov. 22, 2017

Irrigation districts on the Deschutes River Basin will be increasing flows this winter below Wickiup Reservoir.

The Deschutes Basin Board of Control, a collection of eight irrigation districts that operate in Central Oregon, announced Wednesday that it has committed to ensuring that the Deschutes River flows below Wickiup Reservoir at least 175 cubic feet per second through March 30, according to a news release from the irrigation districts.

Earlier this year, the board of control committed to maintaining flows of at least 100 cubic feet per second from mid-September through March, significantly higher than it is during dry winters. The additional increase will provide improved winter habitat for the Oregon spotted frog and fish that live in the river, according to the release.

Wickiup Reservoir was 62 percent full as of Wednesday afternoon, ahead of where it was in mid-November of 2015 and 2016, according to the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.



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