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Feds OK Central Oregon Irrigation District $30 million canal-piping project

Water savings will pass to North Unit Irrigation District

REDMOND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- Plans to modernize a portion of Central Oregon Irrigation District’s irrigation infrastructure by piping canals in the Redmond area have been approved by a federal agency to move forward into construction.

The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service has released a Final Watershed Plan-Environmental Assessment and a Finding of No Significant Impact for the Central Oregon Irrigation District's Smith Rock-King Way Infrastructure Modernization Project.

NRCS said it has determined that the project will not cause significant local, regional or national impacts to the environment.

The project is a joint effort among NRCS, Central Oregon Irrigation District, the Deschutes Basin Board of Control, Farmers Conservation Alliance, Energy Trust of Oregon and in coordination with other agencies, stakeholders, and the public.

With a completed environmental assessment in place, the project is now eligible for federal funding and may move forward into construction.

The EA and other supporting documents for this project are available at

Work on the more than $30 million Pilot Butte Canal project is expected to start in 2020, with the first phase scheduled to be completed in 2022, according to a COID news release earlier this year.

The purpose of the project is to improve water conservation in 7.9 miles of District-owned infrastructure, improve water delivery reliability to District patrons within the project area, and improve public safety on up to approximately 7.9 miles of District-owned canal and laterals.

By converting open-ditch canals into underground, closed-piped systems, the project will reduce water loss from seepage by an estimated 29.4 cubic feet per second, or 9,392 acre-feet annually.

Water saved from the project will pass to North Unit Irrigation District during the irrigation season for agricultural use.

In return, North Unit Irrigation District will release an equal volume of water into the Deschutes River from Wickiup Reservoir, protecting the water through instream leases in perpetuity during the winter for instream flows when it is needed most for fish and aquatic species.

The project may be partially funded through the Watershed and Flood Prevention Operations 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 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 efforts, visit or visit the NRCS Oregon public notice webpage.

KTVZ news sources



      1. The wildlife that drink from the canals. The plants that grow thanks to the seepage, and the animals that use the plants for food, cover, etc.

        1. Just about everything in life has tradeoffs. Some folks put in water features to help some of the wildlife that used to use the canals. But canals also pose a danger, as we saw the other day, and leak much of the water they transport. Lining canals has its own issues, as we’ve reported in the past. Yes that leaked water feeds the aquifer, etc. – but they are man-made features that do benefit their neighbors’ lives and property values, I suppose.

  1. What a colossal waste of money. Are there any definable goals to this spotted frog debacle? If the goals are not met, does the water get to stay in wickiup over the winter? All this time, money, and angst over a frog. Ridiculous..

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