By BROOKE SNAVELY
CENTRAL OREGON DAILY NEWS
Work started Tuesday on a project to pipe a leaky section of a century-old irrigation canal near Smith Rock.
During the irrigation season, as much as half the water that flows through open canals evaporates or seeps into the ground.
“This is where we are going to save and conserve 30 cubic feet per second which equates to about 10,000-acre-feet just on this project alone,” said Craig Horrell, Central Oregon Irrigation District Manager. “This is what we call Phase One Smith Rock of the Pilot Butte Canal.”
Crews will install pipe this winter in a Central Oregon Irrigation District lateral canal near Smith Rock.
In year two of the project, they’ll pipe portions of the main Pilot Butte canal.
“Eventually, many of these farmers will have pressurized pipe or pressurized water which will be getting them off pumps,” said Shon Rae, Central Oregon Irrigation District Deputy Managing Director. “It’s just a win-win all around.”
Water conserved by piping leaky canals can be used elsewhere.
Here, COID intends to send the saved water to the North Unit Irrigation District, which should reduce the junior water rights holder’s reliance on Wickiup Reservoir.
Such an arrangement could result in high winter flows in the Deschutes River.
“What’s really exciting about that is we’ll be able to bring pressurized water to the farmers and at the same time, create a more dynamic system that allows for water to be kept in stream,” said Julie Davies O’Shea, executive director of the Farmers Conservation Alliance.
The project will create an estimated 130 jobs and cost around $40 million, much of it covered by federal and state grants.
Farmers will pay some.