$5.3 million awarded to 7 Oregon water projects

Members of the Oregon Water Resources Commission approved $5.3 million for 7 water supply developments during its final 2018 meeting, held Nov. 15-16 in Salem, Ore.

Seven Oregon water infrastructure projects have won $5.3 million in grant funding from the Oregon Water Resources Commission, which postponed deciding on an eighth project until next year.

Most of the projects focus on improving water conveyance systems, such as replacing open canals with pipes, as well as improving the function of water storage and diversion structures.

One of the grant proposals that state water regulators recommended for approval — $1 million for replacing a municipal pipeline used the City of The Dalles — will be reconsidered by the commission in 2019 due to objections from tribes and an environmental group.

The commission also turned down 11 grant proposals for nearly $10 million at the recommendation of the Oregon Water Resources Department.

The decisions were made during the commission’s final quarterly meeting of 2018, held on Nov. 15-16 in Salem, Ore.

A portion of one of the rejected proposals — drilling two deep water supply wells in Mosier, Ore. — did win funding under a previous grant cycle, but the remaining phase did not rank high enough under a scoring system intended to measure social, environmental and economic value.

Money from the previous water supply development grant proved insufficient to drill both Mosier wells, so a farmer and local soil and water conservation district asked for $670,000 in funding to complete the second well.

Members of the commission discussed the project’s value to learning more about Columbia basin basalt aquifers, but ultimately decided to allow supporters to re-apply with more information during a future grant cycle.

“There will always be grants on the bubble,” said commissioner Joe Moll, executive director of the McKenzie River Trust in Eugene, Ore. “We can’t change that, it’s always going to be that way.”

Tom Byler, OWRD’s director, noted that Oregon’s water supply development grant program is relatively new, and more established grant programs also wrestle with tough decisions.

“We have a lot to learn,” Byler said. “Grant-making is a messy process.”

Following are descriptions of the projects that did win funding this year:

• Conversion of 300 acres in Wallowa County from flood irrigation to a center pivot irrigation system, with the conserved water dedicated to in-stream flows that will benefit federally protected fish. The grant will pay for about $600,000 of the projects total cost of $800,000.

• Replacing 6 miles of open canals and aging pipe used by the Dee Irrigation District in Hood River County with a new pipeline, with the conserved water dedicates to in-stream flows. The grant will pay for $1.6 million of the total project cost of $2.7 million.

• Installing 6 miles of pipe to replace an open canal used by the Tumalo Irrigation District in Deschutes County, with conserved water to be dedicated to in-stream flows. The grant will pay for $1.3 million of the total $6.7 million project cost.

• Raising the capacity of the Painted Hills reservoir in Wheeler County from 800 acre-feet to 1,300 acre-feet, along with upgraded irrigation equipment that will conserve water, contributing to in-stream flows. The grant will pay for $580,000 of the project’s total $1 million price tag.

• Storing and treating stormwater from Beaverton, Ore., with the water then recharging an aquifer through an existing well. The grant will pay for $860,000 of the project’s total $1.15 million cost.

• Replacing equipment and moving the point of diversion for irrigation water from Galls Creek in Jackson County, restoring fish habitat due to dam removal and conserving water through improved efficiency. The grant will pay for roughly $150,000 of the $200,000 cost.

• Excavating the Pinchot reservoir in Grant County to return it to full storage capacity. As part of the project, converting the irrigation system from wheel lines to a center pivot is expected to conserve water, and a new delivery headgate will include a fish screen. The $200,000 grant will pay for roughly half the project’s cost.

The City of The Dalles project that was tabled by the commission would replace 3.5 miles of wooden pipeline with a new iron pipe for $8 million, of which the grant would pay for $1 million.

The Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs and Waterwatch of Oregon had several problems with the proposal, but a central point of contention was the pipeline’s increased capacity, which could potentially allow it to draw more water from the Dog River.

The 2018 grant approvals mark the third cycle of disbursements from Oregon’s water supply development fund, which lawmakers created in 2013 but did not become operational until three years later.

About $8.5 million will remain left in the fund after the most recent grant approvals, though it’s likely lawmakers will be asked to allocate more money to it during the 2019 legislative session.

Recommended for you