Interior Department investments heading to Deschutes River Conservancy, Malheur Watershed Council & Tualatin Valley Water District

Monday, May 1, 2023

Washington, D.C. – Oregon’s U.S. Senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden announced today that Central Oregon, Eastern Oregon and the Portland metro area will receive more than $10 million collectively in federal resources from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and annual appropriations for water conservation projects. These projects will help make water supplies in the region more resilient to drought and climate change.

“Reliable water supply is vital for our communities, farmers and ranchers, and iconic wildlife that call Oregon home,” said Merkley. “As we combat climate chaos, efficiency and modernization investments in our water infrastructure are more important than ever. I will keep working so Oregon has the federal resources needed to carry out creative, forward-thinking projects that conserve water and stretch our water resources further.”

“Oregonians know full well that water is a precious resource, and these federal funds recognize that fact by making significant investments in protecting that resource from the ravages of the climate crisis and the drought that’s created,” Wyden said. “I’m gratified the benefits of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law that I worked to pass are rippling out locally in these three Oregon communities, and I’ll keep battling for similar infrastructure investments throughout our state.”

The projects receiving the $10.2 million invested in Oregon from the Department of the Interior are as follows: 

  • Deschutes River Conservancy, $2.69 million. In partnership with the Central Oregon Irrigation District, the North Unit Irrigation District, and the Arnold Irrigation District, the Deschutes River Conservancy will convert more than six miles of earthen canal to high-density polyethylene and polyvinyl chloride pipe. The project also includes installation of supervisory control and data acquisition systems at 10 locations along the Pilot Butte Canal. The project is expected to produce annual water savings of 1,548 acre-feet, which is currently lost to seepage and will result in reduced diversions. Conserved water can either be stored in the Wickiup Reservoir in the winter for release during critical times for endangered species, including the Oregon spotted frog, or can be left instream in the Deschutes River in the summer to provide increased flows and cooler temperatures for sensitive fish species. 
  • Malheur Watershed Council, $2.52 million. The Malheur Watershed Council, in partnership with the Vale Oregon Irrigation District, will convert 10.4 miles of open-earthen lateral canals to plastic irrigation pipe. The district’s irrigation season has ended early for 10 of the past 17 years and the pipeline conversion will allow the district to better meet its water demands. The project is expected to produce annual water savings of 4,888 acre-feet, which is currently lost to seepage. Conserved water will help achieve a carryover pool in Beulah Reservoir to benefit the federally listed bull trout. 
  • Tualatin Valley Water District, $5.0 million.The Tualatin Valley Water District will automate 100 percent of the watermeters in its service area, including replacing 26,074 outdated meters with new smart metersand retrofitting 34,423 meters with automated digital registers. New endpoints will be installedat all 60,497 meters. The project is expected to result in annual water savings of 873 acre-feet,which will reduce the district’s need to pump and import water from the Portland Water Bureau.

The federal resources for the three Oregon projects are part of a $140 million investment overall through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and annual appropriations for water conservation and efficiency projects in 15 Western states.

“The DRC is thrilled to be awarded these funds to implement irrigation water conservation projects in Central Oregon to benefit farmers and restore flows to the Deschutes River,” said Deschutes River Conservancy Executive Director, Kate Fitzpatrick. “We are grateful for the continued support of Senators Wyden and Merkley to ensure that resources are available to advance water management solutions that fit with the DRC’s community-based streamflow restoration approach.”

“It is a cliché, but this is a win-win. With projects like this we are protecting the environment, and protecting the agricultural economy of our county. Thanks Bureau of Reclamation and Senators Merkley and Wyden!” said Ken Diebel, Executive Director, Malheur Watershed Council.

“We are thrilled to see the Bureau of Reclamation award grant funding to our Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) project and greatly appreciate the support of Senators Merkley and Wyden and the congressional delegation. AMI is a proven, reliable approach that will benefit Tualatin Valley Water District and its 215,500 NW Oregon customers by reducing costs for metering and billings, giving customers more control over their consumption, and lowering capital expenditures and outage costs due to its resilience and faster outage restoration capabilities. AMI also has a range of environmental and resiliency benefits that will help us meet our sustainability and preparedness objectives for years to come,” said Tom Hickmann, CEO, Tualatin Valley Water District.