BEND, Ore. - Another major irrigation canal piping project is planned for the south side of Bend.
The Arnold Irrigation District said it wants to modernize aging infrastructure. That means taking open irrigation canals that leak much of their water before it's delivered and turning them into underground, closed-pipe systems.
The district oversees 40 total miles of piping and canals. Of that, 7.5 miles have already been piped, This proposed project would modify the rest of the network.
Shawn Gerdes, manager of the Arnold Irrigation District, estimated Wednesday the project would cost $38 million. The money would come from both federal and state grants.
"It enhances wildlife, and it enhances the river,” Gerdes said. “It lowers the amount (of water) that we use, which props the district up on the available water that the district needs to use."
Gerdes said with the amount of water saved from this project, nearly 14,600 acres could be covered with a foot of water during an entire irrigation season. He also said it would reduce energy use and enhance fish and wildlife habitat in the Deschutes River.
"Without doing this -- which is better, not having a canal, or not having any water for the summer? We actually would have the potential of having to turn off without being able to conserve this water," Gerdes said.
A public meeting was being held Wednesday evening to give people the chance to weigh in on the project.
As has occurred with other irrigation districts' piping projects, the district expects the biggest complaints could be that the project will ruin people's view of the canal.
"The canals weren't put here for a view,” Gerdes said. “They were put here 100 years ago so people could have drinking water and homestead their land and be able to acquire that land from the federal government. Without water on your property, you wouldn't homestead this property, and you couldn't own this property."
Gerdes said the project would take six years. He hopes to start it by the winter of 2020, once funding is secured for the initial work.
More information, and a link to submit comments online, can be found at: https://oregonwatershedplans.org/arnold-id