Notes from the Field - Senator Merkley Commemorates Milestone for Three Sisters Irrigation

August 4, 2022
Notes from the Field - Senator Merkley Commemorates Milestone for Three Sisters Irrigation

Longtime residents of Central Oregon will remember a time when Whychus Creek would run dry in the summer. In fact, the mindset once was that if any water was left in the creek, it was wasted -- prompting calls of complaint to Three Sisters Irrigation District (TSID) Manager, Marc Thalacker.

Today is a different story. And a transformed creek.

TSID celebrated 25 years of conservation efforts with a ribbon cutting on their latest hydroelectric project. Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley and Robert Bonnie, an undersecretary at the US Department of Agriculture attended in support of the anniversary.

Since 1997, TISD has piped 64 miles of leaking canals, protected fish by installing a state-of-the-art fish screen at their diversion, improved irrigation efficiency on farms, and implemented three fish-friendly in-pipe hydropower facilities. TSID’s conserved water savings are augmented by instream leasing and transfers through Deschutes River Conservancy. Marc Thalacker’s dedication to conservation and piping has positioned TSID as one of the most modernized irrigation districts of Oregon’s 40 districts.

“We are proud to have been a part of this long-term partnership to restore flows, ensure reliable water for agriculture, and generate renewable energy. In addition to flow restoration, the collaborative partnership with the Deschutes Land Trust, the Upper Deschutes Watershed Council and others brought in the land conservation, habitat restoration, and fish passage projects necessary to revive Whychus Creek as an ecological gem within a thriving agricultural community. This is truly a multi-benefit story, and we celebrate the continued efforts of FCA, NRCS, and our federal delegation to fund additional conservation in the Deschutes Basin,” said Kate Fitzpatrick, Executive Director of the Deschutes River Conservancy.

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