Lone Pine Irrigation District, which serves 19 patrons east of Terrebonne, was forced to shut off its water to patrons after depleting its storage and live water flow rights.
The shutdown occurred Wednesday, according to Kyle Gorman, region manager for the Oregon Water Resources Department.
Irrigation districts across Central Oregon are running low on water supplies due to low snowpack in the Cascades and diminishing reservoir supplies. Wickiup Reservoir was down to just 8% of capacity as of Thursday.
“No one will have water for three weeks. We are totally out of storage,” said Terry Smith, chairman of the board for the Lone Pine district.
“Our farmers here depend on this for their living. They won’t get a third cutting of hay, alfalfa, or orchardgrass. They won’t get a second cutting of mint, (our) hemp farmer won’t be able to mature his plants, so economically, it’s going to cost us big time,” Smith said.
Smith blamed the water shortage on requirements from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that more water remains in the Deschutes River to improve habitats and breeding areas for the Oregon spotted frog. The spotted frog was listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act in 2014.
Smith said the new requirements reduced Lone Pine’s storage rights by 5,500 acre-feet. The district has rights at Crane Prairie Reservoir but due to the spotted frog settlement of 2016, those rights can be exchanged with Wickiup Reservoir.
“When we had low water and low snow in the winter, our storage rights were supposed to help get us through these types of drought events,” said Smith. “The Endangered Species Act economically hurt us badly.”
Lone Pine has an opportunity to turn its canal back on Sept. 15, said Gorman, as the natural flow rights of the districts will decrease, freeing up natural flow water for Lone Pine.
Lone Pine, which irrigates 2,369 acres of land, is the second district in Central Oregon to shut down before the end of the irrigation season. The Arnold Irrigation District was ordered to shut down on Aug. 14.
Other districts are also running low on their water supplies. The Central Oregon Irrigation District has trimmed its flow of water to patrons to 75% normal, said Shon Rae, the district’s deputy managing director. She anticipates further cuts in the coming weeks as river flows decrease.
“Normally we would be delivering 100% until September 15th when we would go to 75%,” said Rae.
Jeremy Giffen, watermaster for the Deschutes Basin, does not anticipate further shutdowns until the irrigation season is over.
“We will likely not see another district have to shut down unless Wickiup empties before September 15th,” said Giffen. “Which is possible but not expected.”