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DRW canal neighbors hold yard sale to fund continued fight against Arnold Irrigation District piping plans

(Updated: adding video, comments from canal-piping foes, irrigation district)

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- South of Bend in Deschutes River Woods, water flows through the Arnold Irrigation District canal, as it has for decade. But changes are coming, and some are fighting to change just what's coming.

After years of planning, the irrigation district has won federal government approval of plans for its canal-piping Infrastructure Modernization Project. But the legal fight with opposing neighbors isn't over yet.

The project, like many in recent years by irrigation districts around the region, would convert the open-ditch irrigation canal into a buried, closed-pipe system, for a boost in water efficiency and more water back in the Deschutes River.

However, neighbors trying to prevent the project are fighting back. The nonprofit Save Arnold Canal group has fought the piping plan since it was first proposed in 2019.

Geoff Reynolds, vice president of SAC, told NewsChannel 21 it's the piping the group has issues with.

"It's important to remember that -- conserving the water is important. Everybody supports that. What we don't support is this method," Reynolds said Friday.

Reynolds said he believes there's an alternative solution to saving water while still benefiting wildlife and trees that he says rely on the canal.

SAC advocates instead for concrete lining of the canal, which it says will reduce seepage by 70% but allow enough water to still seep out to preserve trees and neighboring wells within a mile of the canal.

Most supporters of the group live in Deschutes River Woods area, and their properties border the canal. They say the piping project would have right of way to destroy anything on homeowner property within 50 feet of the canal.

Reynolds says the piping could completely change the landscape of his neighborhood, taking away trees and wildlife.

"Well, it's one of the reasons we moved here in Deschutes River Woods is the wildlife and the trees and the plants and the ducks, raccoons, and geese and all of it," he said. "We've got herds of deer here every day."

Save Arnold Canal is pursuing litigation to stop the piping and is raising money to pay for an attorney. It's hosting a benefit yard sale Saturday to raise money for legal fees.

"We feel like there's no dialogue with Arnold Irrigation," Reynolds said. "What we have is a monologue."

Arnold Irrigation District Manager Steve Johnson tells NewsChannel 21 that after evaluations of all alternatives, federal funding is only used for the preferred alternative. He added that piping was ranked the best and most cost-effective option.

Arnold Irrigation District's project is set to begin in November and be completed in six years.

Save Arnold Canal's benefit sale is being held Friday and Saturday from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. at 19054 Choctaw Road.

Article Topic Follows: Government-politics
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Carly Keenan

Carly Keenan is a multimedia journalist and producer for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Carly here.

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