(Update: Adding comment by critic)
Variety of issues raised by opponents
BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- Anyone looking to weigh in on the Arnold Irrigation District's draft plan to pipe more than 13 miles of its main canal now has until this Friday to submit comments.
The plan has upset many area residents, some of whom take advantage of the canal’s wildlife benefits. Pat Pease loves the trees in her yard.
"They're just beautiful,” she said Tuesday. “They provide a lot of shade. They have owls that come here in the night."
But just like many trees along the canal that runs south of Bend and through the city, they may be going away.
"They don't make trees like this any more," Pease said.
The Natural Resources Conservation Service is taking public comments on a proposal to pipe 13.2 miles of the canal. The district says it would save more than 10,000 acre-feet of water per year, which could be returned to the Wickiup Reservoir.
Lauren Bennett, Public Affairs Officer for NRCS. Oregon, told NewsChannel 21, "We've extended the public comment period through July 23rd, based on public request. We've received a lot of comments so far on impacts to the watershed, fish and wildlife, property values, to trees."
And some residents, like Pease in Woodside Ranch, aren't happy.
"Because we all benefit from the wildlife and greenery and everything the canal provides us," she said.
Mark Elling, who lives in the Sholes neighborhood, said it's even bigger than that.
"It's not about property ownership on a canal,” Elling said. “It's about being concerned about our favorite stretch of the upper Deschutes, and it's in everybody's backyard."
His concerns center around the wooden flume, used to divert water from the Deschutes River into the canal. Under the plan, it would get replaced by an elevated pipe.
"This highlighted section is the thing they use to describe what they plan to do to the flume," Elling said, pointing to a single paragraph in the 200-page draft plan.
He said a plan could ruin stretches of rapids near Lava Island Falls.
“If they don’t take care in this area of the river, there’s a chance that they could dump enough fill into the right channel of Lava Island Falls rapid," Elling said. "That’s a world-class stretch of experts-only whitewater. And it will never be fixed, if that happened.”
Both Elling and Pease suggested lining the canal as an alternative to piping it. Elling said lining it could stop about 70 percent of the seepage from the current canal which is more than 100 years old. The remaining 30 percent of seepage is needed to support the plants and trees on the edge of the canal.
Arnold Irrigation declined to comment on the project until the public comment period ends, the comments are addressed and the draft plan is amended.
The draft plan can be viewed here.
You can submit public comment on the USDA - Natural Resources Conservation Service's website.
Here's the initial public comment announcement from last month on the proposed $47 million project: https://ktvz.com/news/environment/2021/06/09/public-comments-sought-on-arnold-irrigations-42-million-13-2-mile-canal-piping-project/