Nov 3, 2022 | Blog

Central Oregon Irrigation District Piping Project Paying Off

Central Oregon Irrigation District
Piping Project Paying Off

Amid historic drought, Central Oregon Irrigation District (COID) completed the first phase of its canal-to-pipe water conservation project, benefiting farmers and the Deschutes River.

CLICK HERE for the COID press release that further details this project and its benefits.

The Family Farm Alliance in recent years, through the leadership of Alliance director Marc Thalacker (manager, Three Sisters Irrigation District), has propped up Deschutes River Basin projects like these as examples of how federal water conservation programs like USDA’s Small Watershed Program can be used to support projects that provide multiple benefits.

Despite a challenging irrigation season, the district completed the project on time and delivered 21 cubic feet per second (cfs) of conserved water through its pipe to North Unit Irrigation District (NUID). As a result, NUID will forgo an equal amount of storage from Wickiup this winter, with the specific timing of the additional flow in the Deschutes River to be determined in coordination with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS).

Photo courtesy of Farmers Conservation Alliance

“We accomplished what we set out to do by converting canals to pipes,” said Craig Horrell, Central Oregon Irrigation District Manager and a member of the Family Farm Alliance Advisory Committee. “Our goal has always been to help our neighboring farmers, increase winter flows in the Deschutes, and enhance Oregon spotted frog habitat.”

Farmers were able to access much of their live flow and stored water supplies that were available even with the drought while simultaneously supporting fish and wildlife habitat and remaining in compliance with the Endangered Species Act.

“COID’s conserved water project didn’t deliver as much water in the first year as we hoped due to the drought, but our farmers did benefit,” said NUID executive manager Mike Britton, who also serves on the Alliance Advisory Committee. “Every little bit of water helps.”

Mr. Horrell said due to the drought, an early season canal breach, and working through kinks with the new system, the district delivered 21 cfs rather than 30 cfs as expected.

“This is just the beginning of our conservation plan to boost releases by 200 cfs over the next seven years to meet the requirements of the Deschutes Basin Habitat Conservation Plan,” he said.

CLICK HERE to read – “Saving One of Central Oregon’s Jewels” – today’s opinion piece written by the Bend Bulletin editorial board in support of the HCP.

We will continue to keep you informed on this and other developments impacting Western irrigated agriculture.
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