Enormous 8.5-foot steel diameter pipes, made in Oregon, will be installed in Central Oregon Irrigation District canals near Smith Rock this winter.
Once they start filling the pipes with water, they’ll save millions of gallons for farmers and other irrigation districts as well as put water back into the Deschutes River.
“What we are going through with this drought, water conservation, using water in smarter fashion, is essential to the health of our lakes and streams and to our ranchers and farmers. This is really important infrastructure work,” said Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-OR.
Through his role on the Senate Appropriations Committee, Merkley has secured more than $135 million for Oregon irrigation modernization projects.
Some of that money is helping Central Oregon Irrigation District pipe its leaky canals near Smith Rock State Park.
“We have completed this section of pipe last winter and we will be completing this section of pipe this winter, 2021-22,” said Craig Horrell, Central Oregon Irrigation District Manager. “It will be completed in time for use next irrigation season in April.”
These 7 miles of pipe will save 10 million gallons of water annually.
“Looking at the projects in the basin as whole, and the projects that are under development, we are looking at a cumulative savings of more than 200 cubic feet per second which is a significant amount of water going back in stream for fish, for frogs, for recreation, habitat,” said Julie O’Shea, Farmers Conservation Alliance.
Merkley is seeking $500 million dollars for similar projects in the infrastructure bill now working its way through the U.S. House of Representatives.
“So one is an ongoing program with each appropriation, the other is a special infusion through the infrastructure bill itself,” Merkley said. “All that hasn’t gotten to the president’s desk yet, but it’s looking pretty good.”
In the future, some of the water these pipes save will be shared with North Unit Irrigation District in Jefferson County.
Had the pipes been in place this year, Jefferson County farmers would still be irrigating crops despite the drought.