Assessment increase helps fund repairs to Owyhee Project

The 1,800 farms in Oregon and Idaho get their irrigation water from the Owyhee Project will pay $4 an acre more for that water this year, with the additional funding being used to repair the 85-year-old system.
Sean Ellis

Capital Press

Published on April 3, 2017 1:53PM

Last changed on April 4, 2017 9:54AM

Workers repair a section of the Owyhee Project known as the Snively Siphon, which was in danger of sliding down a hill side. The need for major repair work on the 71-mile long project is the reason Owyhee Irrigation District patrons will pay $4 an acre more for their irrigation water this year.

Courtesy Owyhee Irrigation District

Workers repair a section of the Owyhee Project known as the Snively Siphon, which was in danger of sliding down a hill side. The need for major repair work on the 71-mile long project is the reason Owyhee Irrigation District patrons will pay $4 an acre more for their irrigation water this year.

Workers repair a section of the Owyhee Project known as the Snively Siphon, which was in danger of sliding down a hill side. The need for major repair work on the 71-mile long project is the reason Owyhee Irrigation District patrons will pay $4 an acre more for their irrigation water this year.

Courtesy Owyhee Irrigation District

Workers repair a section of the Owyhee Project known as the Snively Siphon, which was in danger of sliding down a hill side. The need for major repair work on the 71-mile long project is the reason Owyhee Irrigation District patrons will pay $4 an acre more for their irrigation water this year.

Workers perform a structural analysis of the Malheur Siphon, a key part of the Owyhee Project, which delivers irrigation water to 118,000 irrigated acres in Oregon and Idaho. The need for major repairs to the siphon and other parts of the 85-year-old project is the key reason irrigators who get their water from the system will pay $4 an acre more for that water this year.

Courtesy Owyhee Irrigation District

Workers perform a structural analysis of the Malheur Siphon, a key part of the Owyhee Project, which delivers irrigation water to 118,000 irrigated acres in Oregon and Idaho. The need for major repairs to the siphon and other parts of the 85-year-old project is the key reason irrigators who get their water from the system will pay $4 an acre more for that water this year.


ONTARIO, Ore. — Owyhee Project patrons will pay $4 an acre more this year for their irrigation water, with the additional money being used to make repairs on the aging system that provides water to 1,800 farms.

The project, which is managed by the Owyhee Irrigation District, provides water from the Owyhee Reservoir to 118,000 irrigated acres in Eastern Oregon and Southwestern Idaho.

The annual assessment that irrigators pay to receive that water was raised from $58 to $62 an acre this year, a 6.9 percent increase. In the past 30 years, the assessment has risen by an average of 4 percent a year.

The OID’s total budget is $4 million and the additional $268,000 in funding from this year’s assessment increase will be used to continue to repair the Owyhee Project’s aging infrastructure, said OID Manager Jay Chamberlin.

The project, completed in 1932, includes hundreds of miles of canals and drains. The 71-mile-long system has six pumping stations that pump supplemental water from the Snake River.

When the project was built, it had a 100-year life expectancy; it is now 85 years old.

That doesn’t mean the system has 15 years left — “It certainly is going to last a lot longer than that,” Chamberlin said — but it is in need of some major repairs.

“The system is getting older faster than we can keep up with the repairs on it, honestly,” he said. “There is much more that needs to be done.”

This year’s assessment includes a $2.50 an acre increase in the regular operations and maintenance fee and a special $1.50 fee to help pay engineering costs for a project designed to fix the failing Malheur Siphon, work that will cost upward of $2 million.

Major repair work recently completed on the system includes a $450,000 project to repair the Ring Gate, an 80,000-pound spillway, and a $250,000 project to stabilize part of the Snively Siphon that was in danger of sliding down a mountain.

Close to eight miles of new pipeline was installed in the system this past year.

A ditch break costs about $30,000 to fix on average and the system has those every year, Chamberlin said.

The OID received some phone calls about the increase and OID board members regularly answer questions about the assessment, said Bruce Corn, a member of the board and a local farmer.

“If you don’t actually go out and see it and understand what’s going on, it’s hard to comprehend,” he said. “It’s an engineering marvel but it requires maintenance to keep it going and it’s very, very expensive.”

Corn said it is going to require a lot more work to keep the system in a reliable condition and that’s going to cost money.

“You have siphons, tunnels and all kinds of structures and they are aging,” he said. “In the foreseeable future, there is going to be one project after another and they are going to be fairly major.”





Marketplace

Share and Discuss

Guidelines

User Comments