December 28, 2011 - Bend Bulletin - Concrete work begins on canal between Bend and Redmond

Dec 28, 2011

December 28, 2011 - Bend Bulletin - Concrete work begins on canal between Bend and Redmond

Concrete work begins on canal between Bend and Redmond

By Dylan J. Darling / The Bulletin
Published: December 28. 2011 4:00AM PST

A project to line the sides of a Central Oregon irrigation canal with concrete will result in more water for farmers and fish, say the groups and agencies behind it.

“It's to conserve the water that is currently being lost,” said Richard Macy, a member of the North Unit Irrigation District's board and a farmer near Culver.

Work on the canals began early this month.

Stopping seepage out of a five-mile stretch of the district's main canal between Bend and Redmond could boost flows along the Crooked River near Smith Rock State Park by 220 cubic feet per second, according to the district.

The canal brings water from the Deschutes River in Bend to farmland in Jefferson County. Along the way, pumps near the state park pour Crooked River water into the canal.

By keeping more of the Deschutes water in the canal, less Crooked water will be pumped, said Ken Bierly, deputy director of the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board.

The change could keep about 7,800 acre-feet of water — enough to submerge 7,800 acres of land a foot deep in water — in the Crooked River each year.

Bierly said the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation each put up about $1 million to help fund the $2.25 million project, with the North Unity Irrigation District covering most of the rest of the cost.

The district provides water for about 59,000 acres of farmland, said Martin Richards, another member of the district's board and a farmer near Madras. He said the district's water rights are newer than those of other districts around the Deschutes basin, so it is the last to be allocated water.

By improving the efficiency of the main canal, Richards said, more of the water the district gets will be used on farms, not lost to the leaky canal.

“It will give us a more reliable source of water for the district,” Richards said.

Having more water flowing down the Crooked River will help with salmon and steelhead restoration efforts, said Bobby Brunoe, general manager of the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs' natural resources branch.

“It's a good thing for fish,” Brunoe said.

The Deschutes River Conservancy, a Bend-based nonprofit aimed at restoring streamflow around the Deschutes basin, worked on the project with the North Unit Irrigation District, the tribes, and Portland General Electric, as well as state and federal agencies.

Work should be done before irrigation season starts in April, said Nancy Coleman, a realty specialist with the Bureau of Reclamation in Bend. The bottom of the canal is concrete, but “the walls are just lava rock and compacted soil,” she said.

Construction crews are spraying concrete on the sides of the canals to cover the porous rock sides.

— Reporter: 541-617-7812,

Published Daily in Bend Oregon by Western Communications, Inc. © 2011

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