Piping the canal

Jun 26, 2013

Bend Bulletin

Piping the canal

Project increases power production and saves water

By Dylan J. Darling

The Central Oregon Irrigation District is in line to receive a $1.5 million grant to help switch more of its delivery system from open canal to closed pipe.

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation plans to give the district the money as part of a water sustainability program. Construction on the canal north of Bend would likely begin in October and be done in March 2014, said Steve Johnson, manager of the Central Oregon Irrigation District, which supplies water for about 45,000 acres of agricultural land.

“It would start as soon as we stop the water flowing in the canal" at the end of this year's irrigation season, he said.

The project would result in more water flowing into the Deschutes and Crooked rivers, Johnson said, and the district increasing the amount of electricity produced in a small hydropower plant along the canal.

In all, the project will cost $6.5 million.

Some of the money will come from increased revenue brought in by producing power. The improvements will allow the power plant to increase income from about $630,000 per year to nearly $1 million per year.

The district started producing power at the Juniper Ridge hydroelectric plant north of Bend in 2010. Water in the canal travels through a 2.5-mile pipe. This project would extend the piped section about another three-quarters of a mile.

Along with reducing the amount of water seeping out of the canal, Johnson said, the piping will increase water pressure flowing into the power plant, allowing more power production. The plant should go from producing enough electricity a year for about 1,300 homes to about 1,850 homes.

Steel pipe, 9 feet in diameter, is set to replace a 4,100-foot section of canal between Old Deschutes Market Road and the current intake for a piped portion of the district delivery system, Johnson said.

The stretch of canal winds behind some homes with backyards leading up to the canal. Johnson said the district has yet to inform the homeowners of its plans.

“We will be talking to those folks," he said.

Matt Gadow, 49, who has lived in one of those homes for about eight years and in the neighborhood for 15, said he'd heard talk of piping the canal close to his home, but no official word.

“It would be kind of a drag, obviously," he said.

As seen in an aerial image, the canal has a 90-degree bend and some small sections of whitewater as it passes by the homes. Gadow said he was hoping the district might consider a middle-ground plan, lining the canal to stop seepage but not piping it completely. He does have a pond by his home that wouldn't be affected by the project.

The piping project has the support of the North Unit Irrigation District, which serves 59,000 acres of farmland in Jefferson County, and the Deschutes River Conservancy. The project would result in an additional 552 acre-feet of water per year staying in the Deschutes River and another 2,000 acre-feet going into the Crooked River, said Brett Golden, program manager for the Deschutes River Conservancy, a Bend-based nonprofit.

Water flow will be boosted in the Deschutes from Bend to Lake Billy Chinook, and in the Crooked from Smith Rock State Park to Lake Billy Chinook. The changes to the canal would allow the Central Oregon Irrigation District to make more money with its power plant, and the North Unit Irrigation District would save money by not having to pump as much water as it currently does, while leaving more water in the rivers.

“We wanted to make sure while we were working to meet our needs, they were getting their needs met, too," Golden said.

— Reporter: 541-617-7812,

ddarling@bendbulletin.com

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