Ochoco Irrigation District project clears NRCS hurdle

December 28, 2020
Ochoco Irrigation District project clears NRCS hurdle

The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has released a Final Watershed Plan-Environmental Assessment (EA) and a Finding of No Significant Impact for the Ochoco Irrigation District Infrastructure Modernization Project.

NRCS has determined that the project will not cause significant local, regional or national impacts to the environment. With a completed environmental assessment in place, the project is now eligible for federal funding and may move forward into construction.

Federal funding provides up to $25 million and pays for 75% of a project. OID would have to provide a 25% match. The project under consideration would cost about $30 million.

"It's a huge opportunity for the district to access grant dollars on a larger scale," said Bruce Scanlon, the district's manager.

The project will install a total of 16.8 miles of buried pipeline, which will replace the open, unlined canals and laterals of Grimes Flat and the IronHorse section of the Crooked River Distribution Canal.

"What we are hoping to achieve is reduce our safety risks of having open canals," Scanlon said. "We want to improve our ability to deliver water reliably and to conserve water."

He added that the piping will help with city plans to develop the IronHorse area and extend Combs Flat Road and connect it with Peters Road.

The project will also install a new pipeline to deliver irrigation water to the upper McKay Creek lands associated with the McKay Creek Water Rights Switch. Related improvements include replacing aging pump stations and raising canal banks to deepen channels. The project will improve irrigation water management and delivery, reduce district operations and maintenance costs, improve public safety along piped sections, and increase streamflow in McKay Creek and the Crooked River.

Installing a new pipeline in the upper reaches of McKay Creek will improve water supply reliability for farmers and ranchers in that area while restoring seasonal flow of up to 11.2 cubic feet per second of streamflow in a portion of the creek. Converting open-ditch irrigation canals into underground, closed-pipe systems will reduce water loss from seepage by up to an estimated 5.9 cubic feet per second, of which an estimated 4.82 cubic feet per second will be allocated instream in the Crooked River, and any remaining water savings will improve water supplies for existing irrigated lands in the district.

The project is a joint effort among NRCS, Ochoco Irrigation District, the Deschutes Basin Board of Control, the Bureau of Reclamation, the Deschutes River Conservancy, the Energy Trust of Oregon, Farmers Conservation Alliance, and in coordination with other agencies, stakeholders, and the public.

Scanlon is expecting NRCS to officially authorize the project in approximately the next 30 days.

"Then we can start looking at developing the engineering and design," he said.

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