What Next? With the success of the smaller piping projects completed in the first years of the new century, TSID had hoped to move forward with piping the Main Canal. But there was not sufficient political will among the users to undertake such a large and risky project. Looking for other opportunities, the District revisited a 1994 NRCS design for a hydropower plant in Mckenzie Canyon. Between 1988 and 2004 power rates for irrigation increased from 1.1 cent per kwh to 6 cents, but we could only get 3 cents per kwh for what we produced in a hydropower plant. Further analysis revealed that is made more sense to use the drop in McKenzie Canyon to pressurize water to the farmers in Lower Bridge and eliminate their pumping stations and therefore their electrical bill. With electricity prices continuing to rise, this prospect created political will and cooperative spirit among the Lower Bridge farmers. With little support from the rest of the District patrons, the Lower Bridge farmers pooled their resources and undertook the piping of the Black Butte and Association canals.
Forming Win-Win Partnerships
TSID partnered with the Deschutes Soil and Water Conservation District (DSWCD) and requested under the watershed planning act that the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) do a full-blown watershed plan and environmental assessment for the McKenzie project. With their help the McKenzie Project completed the watershed plan and environmental assessment in 6 months.
Due to the success of the McKenzie pipeline installation, TSID was able to secure a 3-year Agricultural Watershed Enhancement Program (AWEP) award, which allowed all 31 farms to apply for on farm improvements necessary to take advantage of the pressurized water. Without the AWEP-EQIP funds, sustainable farming could never have been achieved. These projects installed over 60,000 ft of pipe which allowed for efficiency that completed the conservation circle.
All the farms went live with pressurized irrigation in May 2010. The McKenzie project piped 14.5 miles of open canal with 12.5 miles of pipe. We were able to shorten the Association by 2 miles because pipe could go underground across farmland whereas ditch must circum-navigate farm ground. Each phase put 1.2 cfs in stream for a total of 6 cfs which now gave Whychus a protected flow of 10 cfs.
Overcoming the Challenges
The project was designed in 5 phases with Phase I starting at the dam at McKenzie Reservoir and Phase V piping the ditch that served the last few farms on Lower Bridge Way. But there was opposition from the non-farm properties through which the ditch ran. They did not want to lose the esthetic water feature the open canal had been providing. This opposition threatened to hold up work on the project whose funding was partially dependent on an aggressive completion schedule. Rather than fight the battle before the project even began, the District decided to reverse the project and start piping at the end of Lower Bridge Way.
With an all vounteer crew and a lot of vounteer equipment, we started work on Phase V in 2005.
The decision to reverse the order of work on the project proved beneficial on two counts. By Phase III we discovered that our 69,000 lb excavator was not sufficient to handle the weight of the pipe needed to complete the project. The success of the McKenzie piping project was changing the political climate in the rest of the District and pressure from outside was making it more clear that TSID needed to continue contributing to the success of Anadromous fish re-introduction. Looking to the future TSID's Board of Directors realized that to do bigger projects like the Main Canal we would need bigger equipment so they purchased the 100,000 lb excavator which allowed the completion of the McKenzie project.
In addition, on February 12, 2008 District Court Judge Ann Aiken, in a decision later upheld by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, stated that piping of an irrigation canal was a use allowed outright by the canal easement. This removed any legal standing for the landowners opposing the pipeline.