In an effort to balance the needs of the Central Oregon agriculture community as well as the environment, several irrigation districts are working to pipe their canals. The hope is by doing this, the Deschutes River will see better water levels during the winter months, thus helping area wildlife. Senator Jeff Merkley, the ranking member of the Senate Ag Committee, held a virtual meeting Thursday, where he discussed the recent funding that was secured to launch those construction projects. Merkley noted these are very serious infrastructure projects.

“Piping irrigation districts is very expensive, but by piping them you essentially greatly reduce the loss to ground water out of the irrigation districts and to evaporation, so you can deliver water with much greater efficiency.  So, in combination with delivering with more efficiency some of that savings can be dedicated back to the [Deschutes] River.”

Projects sharing in the recently $30 million Senate allocation including the Tumalo Irrigation District, The Swalley Irrigation District and the Central Oregon Irrigation District. And Merkley noted, recent funding will allow for work in the Hood River area as well.

He went on to say these irrigation projects are all considered shovel ready, so if Congress passes infrastructure bill in 2021, Oregon will be near the front of the line when it comes to funding.

This comes on the heels of Wednesday’s announcement the Oregon Water Resources commission has awarded $4.8 million for many of these same irrigation districts.

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