Published June 8, 2018
A stretch of the Pilot Butte Canal near Juniper Ridge will be getting more protection than some nearby homeowners ever wanted. Central Oregon Irrigation District plans to pipe around it.
Water will be conserved on a leaky stretch of canal. COID will be able to build more pressure for its hydropower downstream. And the canal declared historic in 2016 will be preserved from water damage.
It’s a win for the river and water conservation, but not so much for the nearby homeowners.
Homeowners with property along the stretch of canal nominated it for historic status. One reason was to block COID’s plans to pipe the 1.5 mile-section.
Although it’s basically a rocky ditch, the canal becomes a roiling stream during irrigation season. When the water is flowing, it’s like having a Tumalo Creek in the backyard.
The canal is unquestionably a part of Central Oregon’s history. Irrigation opened up the region to farming and more growth. Construction began on the canal in 1903 and it was completed in 1905. Marks are visible on the basalt where workers carved and blasted out the canal.
But the purpose of the canal was never to provide a water feature. It was to move water from the Deschutes River to farmers. Open, unlined canals lose about half their water. COID has said that piping this particular 1.5 mile-stretch would save 7.95 cubic feet per second of water, when the canal was being used. One cubic foot of water is more than 7 gallons. So piping would mean more water could stay in the river, and the water taken from the river would move efficiently to its destination.
COID’s new capital improvement plan includes piping around the historic stretch. The alternate route may go along 18th Street in public right of way.
There are many more things that must happen first. There must be permits. The money has to all line up. COID targets the piping to begin in 2020. And there may well be challenges by homeowners who won the battle to declare the canal stretch historic. But they are correctly losing the war to pipe the water.