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Comments sought, meeting set on Redmond-area canal piping project

Feds issue environmental assessment on COID's 8-mile piping project

REDMOND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- Irrigation efficiencies and water savings in the Central Oregon Irrigation District are on the horizon, pending completion of a federal environmental planning process for a canal piping project that began in June 2017.

The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service has reviewed the potential impacts of the Central Oregon Irrigation District Smith Rock-King Way Infrastructure Modernization Project and released a Draft Watershed Plan-Environmental Assessment on Thursday.

COID proposes to pipe 8 miles of district-owned canal and laterals to conserve water, reduce energy use, improve operational efficiencies, increase public safety, and enhance fish and wildlife habitat in the Deschutes River.

“It’s a huge project," Shon Rae of Central Oregon Irrigation District said. "Our projects are usually $1-$5 million and this is a $30 million project."

By converting open-ditch irrigation canals into underground, closed-pipe systems, the proposed project would reduce water loss from seepage by an estimated 29.4 cubic feet per second, or 9,388 acre-feet annually.

Water saved from the proposed project would be passed to North Unit Irrigation District during the irrigation season for agriculture, and in return, North Unit Irrigation District would release an equal volume of water into the Deschutes River from Wickiup Reservoir during the winter for instream flows. The water saved by the North Unit Irrigation District would help replenish the Deschutes River, which is a habitat for the endangered species, the Oregon Spotted Frog.

“Doing these conservation projects to get North Unit to reduce their use of Wickiup will level out the flows and protect the habitat for those species," Rae said.

The Deschutes Basin Board of Control is the lead project sponsor with Central Oregon Irrigation District as a co-sponsor, funding and technical support from NRCS, and cooperation with Energy Trust of Oregon, North Unit Irrigation District, and Farmers Conservation Alliance.

NRCS and project partners will host a public meeting Monday, Feb. 3 from 6:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. to discuss the Draft Plan-EA, answer questions about the project, and collect public comments during a breakout session. The meeting will be hosted at Terrebonne Community School (1199 B Ave, Terrebonne, OR 97760).

The meeting location is accessible to persons with disabilities. Please make a request for an interpreter for the hearing impaired or for other accommodations for persons with disabilities at least 48 hours before the meeting to Jenny Hartzell-Hill at 541-504-7582 or jenny@coid.org.

The Draft Plan-EA is available for public review at www.oregonwatershedplans.org. Printed copies of the Draft Plan-EA are also available at the Deschutes Public Library (601 N.W. Wall Street in Bend, and 827 SW Deschutes Ave in Redmond), the Central Oregon Irrigation District Office (1055 SW Lake CT in Redmond), and the NRCS Service Center (625 SE Salmon Avenue, Suite 4 in Redmond).

Public comments on the Draft Plan-EA may be submitted from January 16, 2020 through February 18, 2020. Comments may be emailed to centraloregon.id.comments@gmail.com, submitted online at www.oregonwatershedplans.org, or mailed to: Farmers Conservation Alliance, 102 State Street, Hood River, OR 97031.

After the public comment period, project partners will evaluate the comments and incorporate them into a Final Plan-EA. If NRCS issues a Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) for the project and authorizes the Final Plan-EA, the project can move into construction.

The project may be partially funded through the Watershed Protection and Flood Prevention program, administered by NRCS and authorized by Public Law 83-566. Through this program, NRCS provides technical and financial assistance to local organizations (project sponsors) for planning and carrying out watershed projects that help solve natural resource and related economic problems in a specific watershed. These issues can include watershed protection, flood prevention, erosion and sediment control, water supply, water quality, fish and wildlife habitat enhancement, and wetlands creation.

For more information about this and other irrigation modernization projects in Oregon, visit www.oregonwatershedplans.org  or visit the NRCS Oregon public notice webpage at https://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/main/or/newsroom/pnotice/.

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