Proponents of tacking a historic designation onto a section of a Central Oregon Irrigation District canal are back. They’re taking another stab at having a section of canal between Gosney and Ward roads southeast of Bend preserved. Having had their initial proposal rejected by the state in January, they’ve made changes to the application and resubmitted it for approval. The Deschutes County Commission will take up the matter Monday at its 1:30 p.m. work session. They may decide whether or not to comment on the new application.
As it did in January, the commission should just say no.
Proponents of the project argue that the canal deserves historic designation and the protection from piping that comes with it because without the canal, Central Oregon would look different. Perhaps. In reality, however, that claim can be made about every canal, large or small, in the region. They did, in fact, allow for farming in the area, but they did so, and continue to do so, at a cost. Several sections of the region’s canal system have already been declared historic. Given that there’s nothing unique about the Gosney-Ward canal, that should be enough.
Open canals dug through sandy soil and lava rock have two big problems that cannot easily be overcome. Water leaks into the ground and some also evaporates. Piping the canals is the best way to prevent that.
There’s another problem that has implications for the entire region. The Deschutes River, source of much of irrigators’ water in the region, has given up more water than is healthy for it. That must be fixed, and there are only two ways to do so. Canal piping is not the only answer, but it’s one of the answers.
Piping is expensive. It eliminates what some homeowners have come to regard as water features that make their land more attractive.
But piping saves water, lots of it, for the Deschutes. That’s good for the spotted frog, for fish, for plants and other animals. And that’s good for the river and for Central Oregon.