Swalley Irrigation District Finalizes Project That Is Raising Flows in the Middle Deschutes

This article was published on: 05/1/20 2:20 PM

Now finalized, the Rogers Lateral Pipeline Project Between Cooley and Tumalo Roads is Already Boosting River Flows

BEND, OR, May 1, 2020— Swalley Irrigation District, one of the leading districts charging forward to modernize its irrigation system in Central Oregon, has an ambitious plan to pipe its entire district. This plan will benefit fish habitat and water users alike.

Improving flows in the Middle Deschutes is an important goal for the Deschutes River Conservancy. Flows in this reach of the river, downstream from irrigation diversions, fluctuate dramatically from as much as 700 cubic feet per second (CFS) in the winter to as low as 65 CFS in the spring and about 130 CFS in the summer. With higher resulting water temperatures in the summer, aquatic habitat declines affecting native fish populations.

The recently completed Rogers Lateral Pipeline Project, the latest in Swalley’s projected system improvement plan, is online and already conserving flows this irrigation season. Replacing a leaky and high-maintenance 3-mile canal with a state-of-the-art 24-inch pressure pipeline and 53 high-tech water meters, this project permanently protects up to 1.2 million gallons per day (1.824 CFS) in the Middle Deschutes. The benefit to water users: less maintenance, better deliveries, and pressurized water which will empower irrigators to consider replacing costly pumps.

When Swalley finishes piping in the north end of their district, they will have conserved canal losses of around 56 CFS total (36 million gallons per day), reducing their overall diversion from the Deschutes River by 45%. Stated another way, close to half of Swalley’s original water right will be returned instream over time without negatively impacting its patrons. The district’s vision is to be over 90% efficient which will open the door for countless on-farm improvements and even more conservation this decade.

In addition to water conservation projects, Swalley contributes to instream flows in another important way. This year, the district is leasing up to 820,661 gallons of water per day (1.27 CFS) back to the Middle Deschutes. Swalley is a contributor to the DRC’s annual Water Leasing Program which allows patrons to lease unneeded water rights back instream for environmental benefit. Acknowledging that water is more precious than ever, Swalley’s board, staff, and patrons have supported and are committed to conservation measures that improve water deliveries while also improving instream flows.

Jer Camarata, Swalley Irrigation District Manager expanded: “Now that the Rogers Project is complete, we have piped almost 70% of our entire District, saving 45 cubic feet per second – or more than 29 million gallons per day. Flows in the Middle Deschutes will be greatly enhanced forever, and water users should have all the water they need, with opportunities to now upgrade their private irrigation systems.”

Todd Taylor, President of Taylor NW, the construction company contracted for the project said: “Water has and will continue to be the one natural resource all Central Oregonians value and prioritize. Swalley, along with other local irrigation districts continue to lead the efforts in the preservation of this natural resource which enhances full utilization for all agriculture needs throughout the region.”

This project would not have happened without generous funding from:

  • Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture – Natural Resources Conservation Services, Public Law 566 Federal Funds
  • National Fish and Wildlife Foundation – Columbia Basin Water Transaction Program
    Swalley Irrigation District
  • Alice C. Tyler Charitable Trust via the Oregon Environmental Council (OEC)
  • Deschutes River Conservancy

In addition, the following contractors and partners were critical in making this project come together:

  • Taylor NW of Bend, OR – Contractor
  • Black Rock Consulting – Engineer
  • Farmers Conservation Alliance – Watershed Plan, System Improvement Plan, Modernization Strategy
  • Deschutes River Conservancy – Grant writing, project agent, and state process assistance

About the Deschutes River Conservancy: Twenty-four years ago, the Deschutes River Conservancy (DRC) formed with a mission to restore streamflow and improve water quality in the Deschutes River Basin. The DRC specializes in programs and projects that employ voluntary, market-based incentives to restore flows. The DRC is non-litigious and serves as leaders and facilitators of basin-wide water management conversations. The board is composed of key private and public stakeholders in the basin. The organization has worked with eight irrigation districts and over 200 landowners to restore over 200 cubic feet per second of streamflow to the basin’s rivers and streams. A part of this work includes the DRC’s Water Leasing Program which restores over 14 billion gallons of water per year (60 cubic feet per second) to the Deschutes River Basin. Water leasing makes up 25% of the summer flows in the Middle Deschutes.

About Swalley Irrigation District: Swalley is one of the smallest irrigation districts in Central Oregon serving water to 668 patrons and to about 4,300 acres of land stretching from downtown Bend to Eagle Crest south of Redmond. Swalley has seen many of its acres in and near Bend become more urbanized and developed over the past decade, but several of those acres have been converted to parks or ballfields, which makes in-town irrigating more sustainable than using potable drinking water. Modernizing their water delivery system is a top priority for the District. The District operates and maintains over 28-miles of infrastructure, including a state-of-the-art hydroelectric facility that provides green, renewable energy to around 250 homes and businesses around the Old Mill. To date, Swalley has permanently returned over 9.2 billion gallons of water to the Deschutes River.

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