Drought is top of mind for producers in Central Oregon and other parts of the West.
The Three Sisters Irrigation District (TSID) On-Farm and Renewable Energy project, funded through the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP), brings together Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Oregon, TSID, Deschutes Soil & Water Conservation District, Deschutes River Conservancy, private landowners and other partners to conserve water and reduce energy demands.
NRCS’s Watershed and Flood Prevention Operations program – known as “PL-566” – also has a strong track record in Oregon and other parts of the West of helping farmers, ranchers and local water management agencies with efforts to modernize water systems.
“PL-566 and RCPP are two of the main driving factors that are helping those districts get to where they need to basically create sustainable water,” said Marc Thalacker, TSID general manager and board member for the Family Farm Alliance (Alliance). “And right now, TSID has basically achieved drought and climate resiliency.”
Working with landowners and water managers like Mr. Thalacker (pictured above, center), these partners are able to connect to pressurized irrigation district pipeline and modernize on-farm irrigation and energy systems. In turn, farmers are able to conserve water, reduce energy demands, reduce manual labor and save money.
CLICK HERE to watch the new 7-minute video about this exciting project, produced by NRCS Oregon.
The project serves as a shining example helping pave the way to modernization for other irrigation districts in the West battling drought impacts.
As the American West faces severe drought and more frequent flooding, farmers, ranchers, and communities are turning to the PL-566 program to mitigate the effects of these natural disasters through watershed improvement projects. However, as demand for this program grows, inadequate funding and burdensome red tape keeps applicants from accessing its full benefits. Western users especially face a harder time accessing the program as a result of its structure and eligibility requirements.
U.S. Senators Michael Bennet (D-COLORADO), Deb Fischer (R-NEBRASKA) and Jeff Merkley (D-OREGON) have introduced S.2636, the Healthy Watersheds and Healthy Communities Act. This legislation will help Western agriculture and communities become more resilient to drought and flooding by improving PL-566.
“S. 2636 further improves the PL-566 planning and construction process and strengthens local control, which will ensure that the program is utilized in the most efficient manner possible in each state,” said Dan Keppen, Alliance Executive Director.
The list of bill supporters also includes the Almond Alliance, California Agricultural Irrigation Association, California Farm Bureau, Colorado Farm Bureau, Environmental Defense Fund, Farmers Conservation Alliance, Irrigation Association, Oregon Water Resources Congress, the Freshwater Trust, The Nature Conservancy, Trout Unlimited, Western Growers, and the Wyoming Stockgrowers Association.
Many thanks to NRCS Oregon for producing the video. The views expressed here on legislation are those of the Family Farm Alliance, and not NRCS.