Irrigation 11

An irrigation district near Hood River, Ore., plans to reduce canals with pipes.

HOOD RIVER, Ore. — An irrigation district in Oregon’s Hood River Valley plans to convert 56 miles of open canals to pipes as part of an effort to conserve water, lower energy bills and create better habitat for local fish and wildlife.

The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service released a draft watershed plan and environmental assessment for the East Fork Irrigation District modernization project on Jan. 8. A public meeting is scheduled for Jan. 29 in Hood River to discuss the plan.

Watershed plans are necessary to access federal funding for district improvements through the Watershed Protection and Flood Prevention Act, which is administered by NRCS.

By converting irrigation canals to underground pipes, the East Fork Irrigation District estimates it will save 1.7 million gallons of water per year by eliminating leaks and spills. The district serves 936 customers with 9,494 irrigated acres just east of Hood River.

The watershed plan was developed in cooperation with the Farmers Conservation Alliance, Hood River Watershed Group, Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs, Energy Trust of Oregon and Bonneville Power Administration.

Multiple irrigation districts in Central Oregon are also moving forward with projects to modernize aging infrastructure as part of a 2016 settlement with environmental groups to provide more water in-stream for the threatened Oregon spotted frog. Around the same time, Oregon Sen. Jeff Merkley, a Democrat, began working with former Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Miss., to reauthorize the Watershed Protection and Flood Prevention Act to assist the districts. To date, Oregon has received $110 million through the program.

The modernization project meeting will be 6:30-7:30 p.m. at the Pine Grove Grange, 2835 Van Horn Drive in Hood River. The plan is available for review online at www.oregonwatershedplans.org. Printed copies are also available at the district office, NRCS or Farmers Conservation Alliance.

Public comments will be accepted through Feb. 13, and may be submitted via email to eastforkcomments@gmail.com; online at www.oregonwatershedplans.org; or mailed to the Farmers Conservation Alliance, 102 State St., Hood River, OR 97031.

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