As water becomes scarce on the High Desert and farms continue to find themselves lacking water, the Ochoco Irrigation District near Prineville has proposed a plan to install 16.8 miles of buried pipe, a high-cost move but one that could conserve significant amounts of water for the Crooked River.
The total cost of the piping and associated projects would amount to $30.8 million, according to a draft environmental assessment of the project. The project includes installing 6.6 miles of pressurized pipe. The remaining portions of the piped area would receive partial pressure.
As a result of the piping work, Ochoco Irrigation District will be able to stop the flow of water in 10.1 miles of its open canal network.
Open canals in Central Oregon seep water back into the volcanic soil, resulting in significant water losses for farms and the area’s rivers.
Irrigation districts in the region have been ramping up efforts to build pipes in the area to conserve water for the Deschutes and other rivers.
The Central Oregon Irrigation District is working on a project to pipe 7.9 miles of open canal in the Redmond area. And earlier this year, Swalley Irrigation District announced plans to pipe its entire network of canals.
The district still needs to convert 12 more miles of its 28-mile network to complete the plan.
According to the environmental assessment for the Ochoco project, 4.82 cubic feet per second of water (2,046 acre-feet of water) would be conserved each year for the Crooked River.
In addition to piping some of its open canals, Ochoco Irrigation District is planning other system upgrades, including the replacement of aging pump stations and increasing the height of 15.2 miles of canal banks to deepen channels.
Despite the cost and extensive renovations, just 39 Ochoco patrons will directly benefit from the project. The district serves a total of 881 households.
The Ochoco project is still in the planning stages and public feedback is being collected. Comments on the project can be submitted until Sept. 30. The draft EA of the project and other details can be found on the website www.oregonwatershedplans.org.