Merkley Announces Funding for Major Irrigation Project

Merkley Announces Funding for Major Irrigation Project

The Central Oregon modernization project will address water conservation, habitat protection, and more

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Oregon’s U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley today announced nearly $30 million of U.S. Department of Agriculture funding for the Tumalo Irrigation District to improve water conservation, water delivery reliability, and public safety on more than 68 miles of its canals and laterals.

Merkley used his position as the top Democrat on the Senate Appropriations Agriculture Subcommittee to work with then-committee chair Sen. Thad Cochran (R-MS) to provide this critical funding.

“This important project will not only improve irrigation conditions for Central Oregon farmers, it will also help ensure habitats are protected and water is conserved,” Merkley said. “I am pleased that through perseverance and bipartisan collaboration, rural Oregon will receive an economic and environmental boon.”

“It is great to hear that Tumalo Irrigation will be receiving the funds that Senator Merkley was able to secure for irrigation infrastructure modernization,” said Gail Snyder, Executive Director for Coalition for the Deschutes. “The piping of these canals is a step towards achieving our shared vision of keeping farms thriving and sustainable, protecting wildlife, supporting vibrant communities, and restoring the health of Deschutes River.”

“Tumalo Irrigation District (TID) is pleased to announce the completion of our Watershed Plan and Environmental Assessment. This project will improve water conservation and water delivery reliability, while protecting the Deschutes Basin watershed and enhancing the quality of our natural resources,” said Ken Rieck, General Manager for Tumalo Irrigation District. “The TID Board and management wishes to thank Senator Merkley for his efforts on the Watershed Protection and Flood Prevention Act at the initiative of the citizens in Oregon and his continued support for collaborative solutions in the Deschutes Basin.”

The project is part of the region’s efforts to meet the terms of a 2016 settlement that Merkley helped negotiate among stakeholders to ensure that farmers and ranchers have sufficient irrigation, while preserving the Oregon spotted frog, which is listed as a threatened species. Managing resources for the range of stakeholders requires significant water conservation and irrigation infrastructure modernization. The Tumalo Irrigation District project will address resource concerns, including water loss, water conservation, fish and aquatic habitat protection, and risk to public safety from open irrigation canals.

This modernization project would not have been possible without the federal funding secured by Merkley. The Tumalo Irrigation District project’s watershed plan and environmental assessment are complete, and the district will begin construction this fall. The total cost for modernization is more than $43.3 million, with almost $29.8 million from the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service and more than $13.5 million from local sponsors, including the irrigation district and Deschutes Basin Board of Control.