Swalley Irrigation District Finalizes Project That Is Raising Flows in the Middle Deschutes


(Photo by Marisa Chappel Hossick)

Now Finalized, the Rogers Lateral Pipeline Project Between Cooley & Tumalo Roads is Already Boosting River Flows

Swalley Irrigation District, one of the leading districts charging forward to modernize its irrigation system in Central Oregon, has an ambitious plan to pipe its entire district. 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. Flows in this reach of the river, downstream from irrigation diversions, fluctuate dramatically from as much as 700 cubic feet per second (CFS) in the winter to as low as 65 CFS in the spring and about 130 CFS in the summer. With higher resulting water temperatures in the summer, aquatic habitat declines affecting native fish populations. 

The recently completed Rogers Lateral Pipeline Project, the latest in Swalley’s projected system improvement plan, is online and already conserving flows this irrigation season. 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, this project permanently protects up to 1.2 million gallons per day (1.824 CFS) in the Middle Deschutes. The benefit to water users: less maintenance, better deliveries, and pressurized water which will empower irrigators to consider replacing costly pumps.

When Swalley finishes piping in the north end of their district, they will have conserved canal losses of around 56 cfs total (36 million gallons per day), reducing their overall diversion from the Deschutes River by 45 percent. Stated another way, close to half of Swalley’s original water right will be returned instream over time without negatively impacting its patrons. The district’s vision is to be over 90 percent efficient which will open the door for countless on-farm improvements and even more conservation this decade.

In addition to water conservation projects, Swalley contributes to instream flows in another important way. This year, the district is leasing up to 820,661 gallons of water per day (1.27 cfs) back to the Middle Deschutes. Swalley is a contributor to the DRC’s annual Water Leasing Program which allows patrons to lease unneeded water rights back instream for environmental benefit. Acknowledging that water is more precious than ever, Swalley’s board, staff and patrons have supported and are committed to conservation measures that improve water deliveries while also improving instream flows.

Jer Camarata, Swalley Irrigation District manager expanded: “Now that the Rogers Project is complete, we have piped almost 70 percent of our entire District, saving 45 cubic feet per second — or more than 29 million gallons per day. Flows in the Middle Deschutes will be greatly enhanced forever, and water users should have all the water they need, with opportunities to now upgrade their private irrigation systems.”

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 continue to lead the efforts in preservation of this natural resource which enhances full utilization for all agriculture needs throughout the region.”   

This project would not have happened without generous funding from: 

  • Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board 
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture — Natural Resources Conservation Services, Public Law 566 Federal Funds 
  • National Fish and Wildlife Foundation — Columbia Basin Water Transaction Program
  • Swalley Irrigation District 
  • Alice C. Tyler Charitable Trust via the Oregon Environmental Council (OEC)
  • Deschutes River Conservancy 

In addition, the following contractors and partners were critical in making this project come together:

  • Taylor NW of Bend — Contractor
  • Black Rock Consulting — Engineer
  • Farmers Conservation Alliance — Watershed Plan, System Improvement Plan, Modernization Strategy
  • Deschutes River Conservancy — Grant writing, project agent and state process assistance

deschutesriver.org swalley.com



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