Editorial: Don't block piping of canal

December 24, 2015
Editorial: Don't block piping of canal

If you want to get in on the debate over the future of the Pilot Butte Canal, now is your chance. We urge you to tell the National Park Service to not list the property on the National Register of Historic Places.

The National Park Service is taking comments on a proposal to list a 11/2-mile section of the canal. Property owners near the canal are seeking the listing.

Canals in Central Oregon have played a remarkable role in the region’s history. The Pilot Butte Canal has had some modifications since it was carved through the countryside. But in many ways it looks like it did decades ago.

The canal in this stretch is lined with homes. And many of those homeowners would really rather not have the Central Oregon Irrigation District move ahead with plans to pipe the canal. It would mean replacing the canal, which is a robust stream during irrigation season, with a lump of pipe.

The listing of the canal could effectively block efforts to pipe it.

The role of the canals in the Deschutes Basin is to get water where it needs to go. Almost 90 percent of the flow of the Deschutes River through Bend is diverted through irrigation canals from April through October.

About 50 percent of the water diverted through open canals is lost before it gets to any farm. Piping canals, though it can cost millions, saves that water. It would mean that only half as much water needs to be taken from the river. That’s very good for the health of the river.

There are things that can be done other than piping, of course. When farmers invest in drip irrigation, it saves water. On-farm practices like that should change, too.

But the federal government should not be taking action to block efficient use of water in the desert. The National Park Service would be making bad history by listing the Pilot Butte Canal.

Want to comment?

The agency has generally preferred mailed comments. Comments may be mailed to: Paul Loether, National Register of Historic Places, USDOI National Park Service — Cultural Resources, 1201 Eye Street NW, 8th Floor; Washington D.C., 20005. His email is paul_loether@nps.gov.

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