BEND Ore. - The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service is teaming up with Central Oregon irrigators, the Deschutes Basin Board of Control, and the Famers Conservation Alliance to develop watershed plans that would help irrigators conserve water, reduce energy consumption, increase irrigation delivery efficiency, improve public safety, and benefit in-stream habitat for threatened and endangered fish species.
As part of that planning effort, these partners are hosting three public open house meetings to discuss proposed irrigation system improvements and collect input from the community and stakeholders.
At these meetings, participants will have an opportunity to learn more about the proposed irrigation improvements and submit their comments, ideas and concerns.
Each meeting focuses on watershed planning within a specific irrigation district — the Swalley, Tumalo and Central Oregon irrigation districts:
· Tumalo Irrigation District Public Open House: Thursday July 6, 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. Location: Tumalo Community Church Meeting Room, 64671 Bruce Ave, Bend, OR 97703.
In addition to providing comments at this meeting, individuals may also submit comments during the public comment period, which runs from July 7 to July 20. Submit comments to: firstname.lastname@example.org
· Swalley Irrigation District Public Open House: Thursday July 6, 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. Location: Tumalo Community Church Meeting Room, 64671 Bruce Ave, Bend, OR 97703. In addition to providing comments at this meeting, individuals may also submit comments during the public comment period, which runs from July 7 to July 20. Submit comments to: email@example.com
· Central Oregon Irrigation District Public Open House: Monday July 10, 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. Location: Redmond Grange, 3707 SW Kalama Ave., Redmond, OR 97756. In addition to providing comments at this meeting, individuals may also submit comments during the public comment period, which runs from July 11 to July 24. Submit comments to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Comments may be submitted via email (see email addresses above next to meeting dates) or via mail to: Margi Hoffmann, Community Relations Director, Farmers Conservation Alliance, 11 3rd Street, Suite 101, Hood River, OR 97031.
Following the public comment period, NRCS in partnership with FCA and the DBBC, will use those comments to develop a draft watershed plan for each irrigation district in the form of an ‘environmental assessment.’ The public will have another opportunity to review those draft plans and provide additional input before they are finalized.
The proposed projects would convert open irrigation canals to piped and pressurized systems, which would greatly improve water use efficiency, reduce energy consumption, and improve in-stream habitat for fish — all while sustaining agriculture on family farms and ranches, officials said.
Once complete, these watershed plans will enable NRCS to apply for federal funding to construct irrigation improvements through its Watershed Protection and Flood Prevention program, also referred to as PL-566.
Through the program, NRCS provides technical and financial assistance to states, local governments and Tribes (project sponsors) to plan and implement authorized watershed project plans for the purpose of watershed protection, flood mitigation, water quality improvements, soil erosion reduction, rural, municipal and industrial water supply, irrigation, water management, sediment control, fish and wildlife enhancement, and hydropower.
“In the last 20 years, Central Oregon irrigators and conservation partners have accomplished many successes to improve irrigation water delivery, both on-farm and within their canal systems,” said Tom Makowski, assistant state conservationist for watershed resources and planning for NRCS Oregon.
“Developing these comprehensive watershed plans is the next step to advance the region’s irrigation modernization efforts on a landscape scale, while providing an opportunity to leverage additional federal funding sources to accomplish work on the ground.”
As the lead sponsor for this planning effort, the DCCB is comprised of eight irrigation districts including Arnold, Central Oregon, Lone Pine, North Unit, Ochoco, Swalley, Three Sisters and Tumalo. Collectively, the districts convey water to more than 150,000 acres of working farms and ranches as well as local cities, parks and schools.
DCCB said it is working in conjunction with NRCS, and with planning assistance from FCA, to complete watershed plans that would eventually cover all eight districts as part of a wider effort called the Central Oregon Irrigation Efficiency Improvement Project.