Editorial: A dose of drought from the spotted frog

A proposed settlement between Central Oregon irrigation districts and a pair of environmental groups may be good for the Oregon spotted frog, but it could be unpleasant for patrons of the Tumalo Irrigation District and other irrigation districts in the Deschutes River basin.

The situation is particularly unsettling in Tumalo. Despite two decades of steady improvements to its delivery system, the district expects that under the settlement it will deliver roughly the same amount of water it did during a drought in the early 1990s.

It’s not the end of the world, says the district’s manager, Ken Rieck. The district has been through worse, and it will survive this, he said.

Since the mid-1990s the district has piped — in 84-inch-diameter pipe — some 7.5 miles of its 11.6-mile main canal. It expects to pipe another mile or so next fall. When the full canal is piped, the district will have saved a total of some 20 cubic feet per second of water, all of which has remained in-stream. State law requires publicly funded projects like Tumalo’s to keep 75 percent of conserved water in stream.

Piping began after the drought of the early 1990s, when the district was unable to deliver the water its patrons were entitled to. In 1994, for example, the district’s water stored at Crescent Lake ran out in August, and in the following year the district was able to deliver only 60 percent of the water patrons expected.

Ultimately the district aims to have all its main canal and smaller lateral canals piped, a move that will not only save water — 50 percent of which is currently lost to seepage in delivery — but be good both for frogs and fish.

If you are interested in more information, the Deschutes Basin Board of Control, which represents regional irrigation districts, is holding a town hall meeting today about the spotted frog settlement at 6 p.m. at Redmond High School.

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