Swalley Irrigation canal-piping plans gain final approval

December 3, 2018
Swalley Irrigation canal-piping plans gain final approval

Total cost nearly $15 million, much paid by feds

Plans to modernize Swalley Irrigation District’s aging irrigation infrastructure by piping more than 16 miles of open canals have been approved to move forward into construction, officials said Monday.

A team of federal, state and local project partners released a Final Watershed Plan-Environmental Assessment for the nearly $15 million Swalley Irrigation District Modernization Project on Sunday.

Project partners also have determined the project will not cause significant local, regional or national impacts to the environment, according to the news release announcing the project approval, which continues below:

This project is a team effort among the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, Swalley Irrigation District, the Deschutes Basin Board of Control and Farmers Conservation Alliance, with support from Energy Trust of Oregon and in coordination with other agencies, stakeholders and the public.

With a completed environmental assessment in place, the project is now eligible for federal funding and may move forward into construction.

The Final EA and other supporting documents for this project are available for public view at www.oregonwatershedplans.org/swalley-id.

The irrigation district requested $11.2 million from the NRCS Watershed Program. Other expected funding sources include the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality Clean Water State Revolving Loan Fund, other grants and in-kind services from the irrigation district.

The goal of the Swalley Irrigation District Modernization Project is to improve water conservation, water delivery reliability, and public safety on up to 16.6 miles of canals and laterals owned by the district.

By converting open-ditch canals to closed-piped systems, the project will increase flows in the Deschutes River downstream of North Canal Dam during the irrigation season and decrease energy use associated with pumping water.

Water saved from the project will be permanently protected in the Deschutes River through Oregon’s Allocation of Conserved Water Program, benefiting fish and wildlife habitat.

Aging infrastructure, growing populations, shifting rural economies and changing climate conditions have increased pressure on water resources across the western U.S.

Within the Deschutes Basin, irrigated agriculture (the primary out-of-stream water use in the area) relies on infrastructure that is over 100-years-old to store, divert, and deliver water to produce food, other crops, and water for other uses as well as drive local economies across the region.

Irrigation canals require increasing maintenance due to the age and inefficiency of the existing system. This contributes to water supply insecurity for out-of-stream users and limits streamflow, affecting water quality and instream habitat in the Deschutes River and its tributaries, officials said.

Swalley Irrigation District operates and maintains about 28 miles of main canal and laterals, including some segments that are already piped. The district provides irrigation water to 668 patrons and 4,333 acres, using one diversion on the Deschutes River which is shared with two other irrigation districts.

Water is delivered to patrons through a series of pipes and open canals; officials said un-piped sections lose approximately 23 percent of the water to seepage and evaporation.

This project is a collaboration among multiple state, federal and non-governmental organizations to help Oregon irrigators conserve water, reduce energy consumption, increase irrigation delivery efficiency, improve public safety, and benefit instream habitat for threatened and endangered fish species.

The project is partially funded through the Watershed and Flood Prevention Operations Program, administered by NRCS and authorized by Public Law 83-566.

Through this program, NRCS provides technical and financial assistance to local organizations (project sponsors) for planning and carrying out projects that help solve natural resource and related economic problems in a specific watershed.

These issues can include watershed protection, flood prevention, erosion and sediment control, water supply, water quality, fish and wildlife habitat enhancement and wetlands creation. Additional cash incentives and technical support for the project comes from Energy Trust of Oregon, Farmers Conservation Alliance and Swalley Irrigation District.

For more information about this and other irrigation modernization efforts, visit www.oregonwatershedplans.org or visit the NRCS Oregon public notice webpage.

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