March 26, 2010 - Bend Bulletin - Don't Stop The Piping Of Canals

March 28, 2010
March 26, 2010 - Bend Bulletin - Don't Stop The Piping Of Canals

Don’t stop the piping of canals

Published: March 26. 2010 4:00AM PST

This is likely to be the summer that shows just how valuable it is to pipe irrigation water in these parts. With the water content of the Cascades snowpack running at less than 60 percent of normal, irrigation districts could be hard pressed to supply all the water local irrigators need.

They have one big thing working in their favor, however. Local irrigation districts have worked diligently in the last few years to convert as many of their canals as possible to pipes, and the result of those efforts will surely be evident this summer.

One need only look at a single project — five miles of canal piping and installation of a small hydroelectric generating project just wrapping up on the Swalley Irrigation District in north Bend — to see what piping can do.

Swalley owns roughly 28 miles of water delivery routes in the Bend area and began several years ago to pipe about five miles of that system. The completed piping project will save fully a quarter of all the water the district draws from the Deschutes River, according to the district’s Web site.

That’s a tremendous savings of water that can only serve to improve the health of the river, but there are other advantages, as well. In dry years, as this one surely will be, what water the district does take will go directly to those who need it, not seep down cracks in our notoriously porous lava underpinnings.

To some whose property abuts canals owned by Swalley or by other irrigation districts, that doesn’t seem to matter. They’ve come to expect their “water features,” put in, by the way, at irrigation district expense, to be there when they want them. Some are willing to back that desire with legal action aimed at preventing piping projects from going forward.

That attitude is unfortunate. It ignores the benefits piping brings both to those whose assessments keep irrigation districts afloat and to the Deschutes River itself. It ignores the very real possibility that, without piping, some conservation group someday will be able to force irrigation districts out of business to prevent further harm to the river and the animals that live in and near it. It basically tells most of rural Central Oregon to get lost so that a handful of folks can watch water run past their backyards six months a year.

By and large, lawsuits brought to halt piping projects have fared poorly in the courts, and that’s as it should be. Piping benefits everyone. We all benefit from a healthier Deschutes River.


Published Daily in Bend Oregon by Western Communications, Inc. © 2010

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