May 23, 2008 - Bend Bulletin Area Irrigators Are'Limping Along' Due To Delay In Piping

May 23, 2008
May 23, 2008 - Bend Bulletin Area Irrigators Are'Limping Along' Due To Delay In Piping

Area irrigators are ‘limping along’ due to delay in piping
By Kate Ramsayer / The Bulletin

Published: May 23. 2008 4:00AM PST

Three miles of the Swalley Irrigation District’s main canal are now underground in new pipes. But because the project was delayed, there’s still two more miles of pipe to lay — and that gap is causing problems as Swalley tries to deliver water to its customers.

“Right now, we can only get about two-thirds of the water through the pipe that it takes to serve the district,” said Jan Lee, the manager of the Swalley Irrigation District.

And while the district has plans to fix that problem within the week, some irrigators who get water from the Swalley district are concerned about what the decrease in water will do to the season’s crops.

“We do a lot of flood irrigating, and we need every drip of water to do any good,” said Megan Hanson, who takes care of her in-laws’ irrigation on about 100 acres of their Tumalo property. “We’re able to irrigate but not like we should be.”

Typically by May 1, the hay fields have had a good drink, she said. But now, with the water down to about half of what it should be, the crops aren’t where they should be.

“We’ve just been kind of limping along,” Hanson said.

The problem, Lee said, is at the spot where the canal starts to go into the new pipe, near Cooley Road on Bend’s north side.

If the district ran the full amount of irrigation water through the canal at that point, the pipe would back up the flow, and water would spill onto neighboring properties.

To prevent that from happening, the district on Tuesday is scheduled to start constructing a foot-high berm on both sides of the canal for the 800 feet before it enters the pipe. That will allow the necessary water flow through the system starting on Thursday, Lee said.

“Once the berm is set up, it will allow the water to rise even higher in the pipe, and it’ll let us put 15 cubic feet per second more of water into the system, so then people will get what they need to have,” she said.

The district also is unable to deliver water to three customers who live near the site where the canal goes underground by Cooley Road, Lee said. There, because the customers have smaller lots and use irrigation water for their lawns, the district is looking for other sources of water.

“If we had the whole pipe in place, none of this would be occurring,” Lee said.

The delay

But there was a delay due to a federal court case, she said. The district asked for a federal declaration stating that it had the right to pipe the canal. Opponents of the piping project filed paperwork against it, and the district didn’t get the go-ahead until February.

Now, Swalley is planning to finish up the 5.1 miles of piping — an $11 million project — by February, she said. The district will also put in a small hydroelectric plant at the end of the pipe, which is designed to generate enough electricity to power about 750 homes.

The project should have the funding to finish up next year, said Tod Heisler, the executive director of the Deschutes River Conservancy, a Bend-based nonprofit that works with the irrigators to return water to streams. And then these problems should not be issues.

“Next year at this time, none of this will be a problem,” he said, “but I know they have a few operational issues that they have to work on this year.”

Kate Ramsayer can be reached at 617-7811 or

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