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‘We have farmers that are in need’: COID, NUID partner with Deschutes Conservancy to promote canal piping benefits

(Update: Adding video)

But not all agree; Patti Adair says getting rid of most junipers would save more water

MADRAS, Ore. (KTVZ)-- "With the lack of water in the basin and junior water holders, there's not a whole lot you can do in the immediate time frame," said Madras farmer Phil Fine.

Fine is a patron of the North Unit Irrigation District, which is now partnering with the Central Oregon Irrigation District and the Deschutes River Conservancy, which Fine serves as a board member, to generate support for piping water to farmers.

"That whole plan hinges on piping up canals. And if we don't pipe the canals because of the water volume that's required by the North Unit, we'll have a hard time remaining relevant," Fine said.

Craig Horrell is the managing director for the Central Oregon Irrigation District.

"The canals in Bend were meant to transfer water for irrigated ag. And right now, they're losing anywhere from 30% to 50% of water," Horrell said Monday.

For years, dry conditions have impacted Central Oregon farmers. According to, more than 40% of Deschutes County is still affected by drought. Nearly 90% of Jefferson County is abnormally dry.

Fine has felt the effects. Half of his land has had to be fallowed, or dried out and not planted, to ensure he has enough water for the rest.

"And so moving forward, it just compounds, because every year we're farming less and less," he said.

Horrell said: "We have endangered species. We have farmers that are in need, and we have a source that we know where we can find water."

But the canal piping under way over the past several years has its critics. Deschutes County Commissioner Patti Adair is against canal piping in the Arnold Irrigation District canal.

"If you're piping everything, where do the wildlife get a drink?" Adair said Tuesday.

 Last year, neighbors lost a case in federal court citing environmental impacts. Commissioner Adair believes there's better alternatives.

"The real thing I would love to see happen in Central Oregon is getting rid of 5 million juniper trees, tastefully - leave four an acre. But juniper trees use moisture all year long, 25 to 40 gallons a day," she said.

Article Topic Follows: Special Reports

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Isabella Warren

Isabella Warren is a multimedia journalist for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Isabellahere.


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