pump station

A view of the area where North Unit Irrigation District, which supplies water to Jefferson County farmers, would like to build a pumping station that would take water from Lake Billy Chinook for the region’s irrigation needs.

Drought and junior water rights meant this year was one of the worst for the farmers served by North Unit Irrigation District.

The climate may not change soon enough to something wetter. And any changes in state water law that might bring relief have come slowly.

The big missing ingredient for many needed changes is money. It would take hundreds of millions to make the basin’s irrigation system more efficient with piping. That change comes at a trickle. And it can get pushback because some people understandably much prefer an open flowing canal running by their home than a pipe.

For years, farmers in Jefferson County have also talked about another solution — pumping water from Lake Billy Chinook. The costs would be immense to build the pumping station, maybe $400 million, and then there would be the electric bill to run it that could be $6 million. As Bulletin reporter Michael Kohn pointed out, North Unit’s annual budget is only $6 million.

North Unit has enlisted a Washington, D.C., lobbying firm to secure federal help.

We’d hope North Unit will also get the support of two of Oregon’s strongest voices in Washington — Sens. Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden — and the rest of Oregon’s delegation. Merkley and Wyden have a long history of being staunch advocates of providing more federal money for water projects. It would sure be nice if the critical water challenge North Unit faces got so much attention from our elected representatives that North Unit wouldn’t have to feel like they needed to call in lobbyists.

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