‘Save Arnold Canal’ files lawsuit to stop canal piping project

June 8, 2023
‘Save Arnold Canal’ files lawsuit to stop canal piping project

By Brooke SnavelyOriginal article

A group of concerned property owners has filed a lawsuit in federal court to stop the Arnold Irrigation District from piping 12 miles of its main canal.

The piping project is approved by state and federal agencies, has received funding and is scheduled to begin construction this fall.

Central Oregon Daily News spoke with irrigation district management and property owners about the piping controversy.

One of Jerry Rudloff’s concerns is the amount of disturbance caused by burying a pipe through which the Arnold Irrigation District’s main canal now flows. The construction zone passes within two feet of his back porch.

“Which means take any trees or excavate any land that they had here. It was our obligation to make sure we moved stuff and got stuff out of the way.”

RELATED: Deschutes River Conservancy gets $2.7 million for water canal improvements

The $31 million canal piping project will take three years.

It will save millions of gallons of water and likely ensure the district can deliver water throughout future irrigation seasons even during drought.

Due to drought and its junior water right, the district had to stop water deliveries early the past three years causing economic hardship for farmers.

Several farms in the district sold recently due to lack of reliable water supply.

But a group that calls itself Save Arnold Canal, thinks there are other ways to conserve water without piping the canal.

“If you look at Arnold Irrigation District’s plan they submit to Oregon Water Resources Department, their conservation method that they are so proud of is shot-crete lining,” said Mark Elling, an AID patron and property owner along the main canal that is scheduled to be piped. “It works for them now, but they pick and choose how to describe it as an effective method.”

Debra Rudloff is concerned about the carbon offsets that could be lost when trees along the canal are cut down to make way for the pipeline.

“There’s 383 trees already spray painted like this from Horse Butte out to end of Phase I. If you go through Woodside Ranch and Deschutes River Woods you’re talking a couple more thousand trees.”

The manager of the irrigation district is aware of the lawsuit and says he respects the right of people to oppose the project.

But he also says the case will be heard in a federal court in Eugene that recently ruled in favor of the Tumalo Irrigation District that was sued over similar claims.

“Because of the recent judge’s decision at the same court, I’m not overly concerned that they’ll be able to block the project,” said Steve Johnson, manager of the Arnold Irrigation District. “As each day goes by, there’s more and more investment being made through pipe fabrication and construction activity.”

A hearing on the Save Arnold Canal lawsuit is scheduled this month.

Phase I of the Arnold Irrigation District Canal is scheduled to begin this October.

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