COID lateral piping boosts Crooked River water levels

Date:
February 26, 2021
COID lateral piping boosts Crooked River water levels

Increase will benefit fish and other wildlife in the Deschutes Basin.

A canal piping project operated by the Central Oregon Irrigation District near Redmond has boosted levels of the Crooked River by up to 16%, an increase that will benefit fish and other wildlife in the Deschutes Basin.

Water has been saved through the piping of a 2,210-foot-long open lateral canal near Redmond, according to a release from the Deschutes River Conservancy, a nonprofit group. Pipes are more efficient than canals as they don’t seep water into the soil.

Over the past century, water diverted from the rivers in the Deschutes Basin through canals for agricultural purposes has disrupted the natural flow of rivers across Central Oregon.

Recent canal infrastructure improvements across the region have helped irrigation districts transfer water back to the rivers, which helps improve fish habitat.

Much of the piping is being done by the Central Oregon Irrigation District, a senior water rights holder. The North Unit Irrigation District, a junior water rights holder, benefits by having water transferred into its system.

“COID is proud that this conservation project benefits our patrons and generates a more reliable water supply for North Unit Irrigation District farmers in an environmentally and economically sustainable manner,” Craig Horrell, COID’s manager, said in a prepared statement. “This project is a win for farmers, the Crooked River and fish.”

The transfer of water into the Crooked River will help restore habitat and water quality for fish that inhabit these waters, including reintroduced salmon and steelhead, said Kate Fitzpatrick executive director of Deschutes River Conservancy. Fitzpatrick added that the project was a unique collaboration between districts.

“This project showcases innovative coordination between two irrigation districts and the DRC to solve longstanding water issues — the kind of out-of-the-box thinking that we’ll need to amplify moving forward,” said Fitzpatrick.

The project saves 1,602 acre-feet of water, the conservancy stated. The saved water has been transferred to 642 acres in the North Unit Irrigation District, a junior water rights holder located around Madras. An equivalent amount of water was then transferred to the Crooked River, which will increase flows by 16% during the irrigation season. The increased flows start just upstream of Smith Rock State Park.

“This project supports junior water users at a time when water scarcity has destabilized many family farms,” Mike Britton, North Unit’s director, said in a prepared statement. “The reduction in pumping costs will also be a significant benefit for Madras area farms.”

Work on the canal piping project was completed six years ago, but April marks the first month that the water will be protected instream in the lower Crooked River. That’s because the Oregon Water Resources Department finalized the water rights transfer earlier this month.

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