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Federal judge rejects Arnold Irrigation canal-piping foes’ bid for injunction to block imminent project

Arnold Irrigation District canal
KTVZ file
Arnold Irrigation District canal

Work set to begin Sept 11; opponents 'reviewing possible paths forward'

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- A federal judge has denied a request for a preliminary injunction to block the Arnold Irrigation District's 12-mile canal-piping project, set to begin in less than three weeks, citing previous rulings that point to the benefits of such water conservation efforts.

The group Save Arnold Canal filed a federal lawsuit last fall against the irrigation district and Natural Resources Conservation Service, claiming the project violates several federal laws.

But in his 15-page ruling filed a week ago, U.S. District Judge Michael McShane said, ""Because Plaintiffs have not established the likelihood that they will succeed on the merits of their claim, that an injunction is in the public interest, or that the balance of equities tips in their favor, Plaintiffs’ Motion for Preliminary Injunction is denied."

McShane repeated a portion of his ruling in similar challenges: "There is also plenty of evidence reflecting that the project will improve water quality and habitats for imperiled species in Central Oregon, which likely explains why no environmental advocacy group has joined in this litigation."

"And as mentioned, the project will also eliminate the public safety concerns posed by open canals. In the end, plaintiffs private interests are outweighed by the community's interest in having a safe and efficient irrigation system in the Deschutes Basin," the judge wrote.

The Arnold Irrigation District says its modernization project to pipe 11.9 miles of open canals will conserve 3.4 billion gallons of water annually.

In a news release Thursday, the irrigation district said, "Judge McShane's ruling underscores the Courts' recognition of the broader benefits brought forth by the modernization initiative, such as improved water conservation, delivery reliability to District patrons, enhanced streamflow and habitat conditions in the Deschutes River, and improved public safety.

"The court's decision aligns with AID's commitment to responsible water management, sustainable agricultural practices, and long-term environmental considerations," AID added.

"We are pleased with the judge's opinion and look forward to continuing our work to conserve water and provide great reliability for our patrons," said Steve Johnson, the irrigation district's manager. "Amidst this unprecedented drought, this modernization project is not just a strategic step but a necessary one. It is our duty to ensure that our community's water resources are managed efficiently and sustainably."

AID says its Infrastructure Modernization Project is slated to commence as scheduled on Sept. 11.

For more information about AID's Infrastructure Modernization Project, visit the Arnold Irrigation District website,

On its website, Save Arnold Canal noted that the ruling denying their injunction request "is not a 'summary judgment,' so issues raised by the SAC complaint are still before the court and could proceed."

"In light of this development, SAC is reviewing possible paths forward, with an eye towards available funds and the likelihood of success," the opponents wrote.

Article Topic Follows: Deschutes County

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