(Photo | Courtesy of Deschutes River Conservancy)
Swalley Irrigation District, one of the leading Central Oregon districts charging forward to modernize its irrigation system, has an ambitious plan to complete piping its entire district in the next seven years. This plan will benefit fish habitat and water users alike.
Improving flows in the Middle Deschutes is an important goal for the Deschutes River Conservancy. Situated downstream from irrigation diversions, flows in this reach of the river drop from 700 cubic feet per second (CFS) in the winter to 135 CFS during peak irrigation season. With higher resulting water temperatures in the summer, aquatic habitat declines, affecting native fish populations.
The Rogers Lateral Pipeline Project is the latest in Swalley’s projected system improvement plan. Well under way and scheduled to be completed in April 2020 in time for the irrigation season, the project is replacing a leaky and high-maintenance three-mile canal with a state-of-the-art 24-inch pressure pipeline and 53 high-tech water meters. The benefit to water users: less maintenance, more reliable water and pressurized water that will empower irrigators to replace costly pumps and upgrade to more efficient watering techniques.
When Swalley has finished piping the remaining nine miles of canals in the north end of our District, they will have conserved around 56 cfs total, meaning that their overall consumption from the river will have dropped by 55 percent. Stated another way, more than half of Swalley’s original water right will be returned instream. The district’s vision is to be 100 percent efficient, which will open the door for countless on-farm improvements and even more conservation.Jer Camarata, Swalley Irrigation District manager, said, “When the Rogers Project is complete this April, we will have piped almost 70 percent of our entire district, saving 45 cubic feet per second — or more than 20,000 gallons per second. Flows in the Middle Deschutes will greatly be enhanced forever, and water users will have all the water they need. That’s a not-too-distant future that makes us excited.”
Todd Taylor, President of Taylor NW, the construction company contracted for the project, said: “Water has and will continue to be the one natural resource all Central Oregonians value and prioritize. Swalley, along with other local irrigation districts, continues to lead the efforts in preservation of this natural resource that enhances full utilization for all agriculture needs throughout the region.”