Editorial: Tumalo project a winner

January 4, 2019
Editorial: Tumalo project a winner

It won’t happen this year or next, but the Tumalo Irrigation District is well on its way to having all its canals, large and small, converted to buried pipe. When the task is complete, the district’s water users, wildlife and Tumalo and Crescent creeks, the sources of its water, will all be better off.

District officials learned in December they were awarded a $1.3 million grant from the Oregon Water Resources Department, and they got a big chunk of money from the farm bill that became law in late December. While there’s still money to be raised, it’s within the range of what has been raised in the past.

As is often the case with such projects, the district didn’t do the work alone, says Ken Rieck, district manager. Both the Farmers Conservation Alliance, a nonprofit that works to improve water management in ways that benefit both agriculture and the environment, and the Energy Trust of Oregon chipped in expertise and money, Rieck says. The city of Bend was helpful, as well.

The Tumalo district supplies water to irrigate more than 8,000 acres in Deschutes County. It’s in the process of completing burial of its 11.6-mile long main canal and also plans to bury more than 60 miles of smaller canals. In addition, it will work with its customers to help them bury on-farm canals.

The job already is paying off. Like irrigation canals across Central Oregon, Tumalo’s lost almost half their water each year to seepage and evaporation. Piping ends both those problems.

When its own canals are underground, the district will be able to supply all its users with all the water they’re entitled to in a way it’s been unable to do in the past. Moreover, it will return 48 cubic feet per second to the creeks it draws from, a move that will improve water quality and wildlife habitat. That’s good news all around.

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