Editorial: County takes the right approach on historic designation

October 17, 2017
Editorial: County takes the right approach on historic designation

The Deschutes County Commission took an important action Monday to stop a historic designation and protect the Deschutes River. It agreed to send a letter to the state’s historic preservation office to oppose the designation of 3.4 miles of Central Oregon Irrigation District canal as historic.

Declare more irrigation canals in Central Oregon as historic? No thanks.

When canals are declared historic, it makes it effectively impossible to pipe the canals and more difficult to do basic maintenance. Central Oregon’s network of canals needs more piping, not less.

Piping irrigation canals conserves water, can increase the natural flows of the Deschutes River and helps protect animals listed under the Endangered Species Act. Another historic designation would be a waste of water, pure and simple.

The stretch of canal in question is located between Ward Road and Gosney Road south of U.S. Highway 20. There’s no doubt that section of canal was built a long time ago. Parts of it may not even look a lot different than they did 100 years ago. But the canal is different. It’s a working canal. Sections of it have been altered and reconstructed over its history. In just the last 20 years or so, burrowing animals and erosion have repeatedly created breaches in the canal wall. They weren’t repaired using historical techniques.

That stretch of canal is also not unique. It’s not somehow more special than most any other stretch of canal. What significant historic event is that canal directly connected to? None.

Does Central Oregon even need more stretches of canal designated historic? There are two much better examples, one near Redmond and another on Brasada Ranch. Those already have historic designations. The region doesn’t need more.

The last thing the Deschutes River needs is another flawed historical designation siphoning water away from its natural flow. The state advisory committee on historic preservation is scheduled to hear the historical designation proposal on Friday. It should reject it.

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An aerial view of a body of water.