BEND, OR — Another Central Oregon irrigation district is receiving federal funding to pipe open canals, in an effort to conserve water. The Swalley Irrigation District has already piped 45% of its canals; this influx of $11.2 million will allow for piping the remainder. The district’s watershed plan and environmental assessment was recently approved by the NRCS, allowing the work to move forward.
U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley helped secure the money from the 150-million dollar Watershed Protection and Flood Prevention Program. “It started several years ago, when I heard that several folks on the Appropriations Committee were seeking to design a strategy for helping irrigation districts that have endangered species issues. And, I said, ‘wow; that’s us in Oregon.’ So, since that time, I’ve been able to get half that funding to our state.” Of the $75 million available to Oregon, $30 million went to Tumalo Irrigation and $11.2 million was just awarded to Swalley. Merkley helped celebrate Tumalo Irrigation’s new piping project, last month. Senator Merkley says bringing the program to the High Desert started with an idea from Central Oregon and North Unit irrigation districts. “They were pondering how they could proceed with piping in their areas and get more water into the Deschutes. As it’s turned out, Tumalo and Swalley got through the process more quickly.” He tells KBND News the Klamath Basin may eventually take advantage of the program. But, so far, the money has exclusively come to Central Oregon.
Swalley will use the money to pipe more than 16 miles of open canal over the next seven years. The 16,000′ Rogers Lateral Piping project (pictured), on the north end of Bend, is expected to be the first phase. it should be complete early next year.