The plan currently in the public consultation phase aims to channel nine miles of open channel, add pumping stations and complete other local projects
The Ochoco Irrigation District is making slow progress on a potential large-scale watershed project that would bring multiple improvements to its system.
The plan would include channeling approximately nine miles of open channel throughout the district, extending water distribution to another part of the community while adding pumping stations.
“What we hope to achieve is reduce the safety risks associated with open channels. We want to improve our ability to reliably deliver water and conserve water,” said Bruce Scanlon, director of the district. He said improvements would help retain 5.9 cubic feet per second, the majority of which would be permanently placed in the stream.
The OID launched the plans for the project about a year ago, when they held a public scoping meeting.
“We presented a first draft plan, called a watershed plan,” Scanlon explained. “This watershed plan is a necessary step in order to be eligible to apply for a grant through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service fund PL566. To qualify, we must have a final watershed plan and an environmental assessment, and we need to raise matching funds.”
Scanlon said the program provides up to $25 million and pays 75% of a project. The OID should provide a 25% match. The project under study would cost approximately $30 million.
The watershed planning effort has reached the fourth stage of a six-step process, Scanlon said.
“We’re opening it up for public comment this month,” he said. “The best way to do that is to go to oregonwatershedplans.org and submit a comment.”
Assuming that public comments do not hinder the process, the project would then proceed to a fifth stage of submitting a final plan, then if approved by the Natural Resources Conservation Service, the OID could put implement the plan and proceed with construction.
The watershed project would involve several improvements and additions to the community, which would take place over a few years.
“One of the main things is to comply with the provisions of the Crooked River Act of 2014 that additional land on McKay Creek was annexed to the district,” Scanlon said. “An opportunity has been provided for these landowners to essentially transfer their natural flow rights to the stored water that has been reallocated to the Prineville Reservoir.”
Another component of the project will target the OID’s northernmost ditch, an area they call the Grimes Flat area. Eight miles of this ditch will be channeled and a new pumping station will be installed.
Another section of the canal planned for the pipeline is expected to open land on Barnes Butte Recreation Area, owned by the Town of Prineville. Just north of where Combs Flat Road ends, part of the canal begins and meanders through the area, returning to driving just before reaching the eastern end of Peters Road.
“With the city’s plans to develop this area and extend Combs Flat Road and link it to Peters Road, we hope to provide a new pipeline alignment through this section,” Scanlon said.
Given the milestones still to be completed, Scanlon does not expect the watershed project to be launched for at least a year. He felt that the DIO would probably not have completed its final plan before the start of the next hydrological year. Therefore, construction could not begin until the end of the hydrological year in the fall.
Nonetheless, Scanlon is looking forward to seeing the project continue moving forward.
“It’s a big problem for the irrigation district,” he said.