TUMALO, OR -- Tumalo Irrigation District, this week, received federal approval of its watershed plan. District Manager Ken Rieck says they’ll start a major construction project in October, after the end of this irrigation season, "We’re piping our main Tumalo Feed Canal. This is the canal that brings water from Tumalo Creek in to the Tumalo Agricultural Area, mostly from the south side of Tumalo Reservoir Road." The district started piping in 2000, and Rieck says they've done about 5,000' per year. This last stretch of 84" pipe is the largest undertaking, at 8,400'.
The USDA approval also clears the way to apply for a $30 million grant, which Rieck says is about a 75% match for the overall project, "We’re assuming that we can obtain additional funds. We will start doing the laterals next year, after we do this main canal, this year. We’re really on our way; this is the start of an 11-year construction project." Those laterals carry water from the main canal to irrigators, and require a much smaller pipe, typically around 12" in diameter. Rieck says that could lead to pressurized lines, eliminating the need for ranchers to have their own pump systems.
By converting open irrigation ditches to a closed pipe system, the project will "reduce water loss from canals by up to 48 cubic feet per second, or 4.9 billion gallons per season," according to the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service. And, Rieck says the watershed plan is only part of the district's greater conservation efforts, "At the same time, we’re running on-farm conservation projects that help the irrigators themselves save water; maybe switching from flood irrigation to a more efficient type of irrigation system. So, all that is going on in parallel with the infrastructure piping projects." He says, "My job is to deliver the water and conservation is how I ensure the future ability to deliver that water."