Central Oregon Irrigation District (COID) received final approval from the Oregon Water Resources Department for its West-F project that piped 2,210 feet of a leaky lateral canal north of Redmond.
As a result, the 1602 acre-feet of water saved by COID have been transferred to 642.1 acres of farmland in the North Unit Irrigation District (NUID) near Madras, the area’s most junior water users.
The equivalent amount of water was then transferred from NUID into the Crooked River.
A boost in flows of up to 16% (up to 6 cubic feet per second) during the irrigation season is a crucial step toward restoring habitat and water quality for returning steelhead and Chinook salmon as well as resident redband trout.
“This project supports junior water users at a time when water scarcity has destabilized many family farms,” said Mike Britton, NUID manager. “The reduction in pumping costs will also be a significant benefit for Madras area farms.”
This project contributes to a 3rd and final phase of a complex program, a water supply initiative to improve the reliability of water deliveries to the farms in NUID, a mostly commercial farming area with increasingly unreliable water supplies while improving flows in the Crooked River.
Another added benefit of the project is that it reduces the necessity of expensive pumping costs to pull water from the deep canyons of the Crooked River.
Recently installed variable frequency drive pumps will also allow NUID to manage minimum flows in the river more responsively.
Future projects involving COID and NUID coordination will likely focus on restoring flows in the Upper Deschutes River to support Oregon spotted frog and redband trout habitat.
“It’s very gratifying to see this project come to fruition. Paving the way to share water in the basin is a major focus of the DRC right now,” said Kate Fitzpatrick, Executive Director of the Deschutes River Conservancy.
The Deschutes River Conservancy and the Districts are working on other projects and programs around the Deschutes Basin that will improve streamflows and water quality for fish and wildlife while also addressing farmers’ and cities’ needs.
The DRC supports and facilitates conservation and water marketing projects with the districts to meet foundational standards set by the Habitat Conservation Plan.
Additionally, the DRC shares a leadership role with the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs to lead the Deschutes Basin Water Collaborative, a group seeking to accelerate streamflow restoration in the basin.