BSWG, Irrigators, and the Betrayal of the Common Good

The Basin Study Work Group was a multiyear study of water issues, primarily centered on the upper Deschutes River, which concluded last week.  The Deschutes River Conservancy did an excellent job of shepherding the effort, producing valuable studies that added to our knowledge of how water is managed and strategies that could be used to conserve it, although none of them are required to be implemented.  The final meeting ended with participants congratulating each other for a job well done which, for me, crystallized the failures of the process, including the catastrophic draining of Wickiup Reservoir this summer.

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More on Wickiup

Last week I sent an email to the Bend Bulletin pointing out that their coverage of low levels in Wickiup Reservoir was inaccurate when it assigned partial blame to the endangered Oregon Spotted Frog.  Flows for the frog out of Wickiup into the upper Deschutes River are in the winter only and Wickiup was completely full when irrigation season began.  I was happy the Bulletin published a new article today that correctly identifies last winter’s low snow pack as the culprit for low water levels, but this new article also fails to address another important issue.  Why where no mitigating actions taken?  There are strategies that could have reduced the draw down.  Read More »

Why was Wickiup drained dry?

Wickiup and Crane Prairie reservoirs on the upper Deschutes River were constructed to hold water for irrigation releases from Bend to Madras.  Wickiup is currently at its lowest level since 1952, and it may get lower.  As of September 20th Wickiup is only 2% full.  Until recently, Wickiup had some of the best kokanee fishing in the state and excellent trout fishing as well.  This popular fishery is now gone.Read More »

Is TID pulling a fast one?

As I discussed in this post, Tumalo Irrigaion District is asking taxpayers to pay the full $42M+ cost of piping their irrigation canals.  They claim in their Draft Environmental Assessment that piping will conserve about 48 cfs (page xxvii) which they will return in-stream.  BUT, page D-20 of the appendix contains a table showing increased water deliveries to irrigators after piping is complete.  Where does this water come from?  Why is it not being returned to the river?  Why is on-farm conservation not being pursued to REDUCE usage?  You have until May 22 to submit your comments.

Fact checking…

Once again, I was criticized for making statements that readers believed to be erroneous, this time in my post on Tumalo Irrigation District’s piping plans. I did provide footnotes and links to source material but I guess that was not enough. Today, a slightly shorter version of the post was published in The Bend Bulletin after being independently fact checked by them. I did have to add the word “most” to one sentence, but otherwise the only changes were for brevity to fit their 650 word limit. We can all have our own opinions, but we can’t have our own facts.

Who should pay for irrigation canal piping?

Central Oregon Irrigation Districts have spent hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars piping their canals.  They plan to request hundreds of millions more [1].  A current example is Tumalo Irrigation District’s application for funding [2] their next piping phase which will cover 68.8 miles, take 11 years to implement, and is expected to cost $42,689,000, all paid by taxpayers [3].   You can comment on TID’s plan until May 22 by visiting www.oregonwatershedplans.org.

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Agricuture’s contribution to Deschutes County’s economy

I was recently criticized for not sufficiently valuing the economic contribution of agriculture to the Central Oregon economy.  Some readers felt that the value provided by farmers justified the damage to our local rivers caused by irrigation withdrawals.  I am reminded of an old quote that goes something like “we can have our own opinions but we can’t have our own facts”, so here are some facts.  You can form your own opinion.  I again want to stress that I am not advocating for the forced elimination of water deliveries to any water right holder.  As I have written about on this blog there are affordable and relatively quick solutions that allocate water to irrigators while also partially restoring rivers.  I believe it is time to implement water policies that ensure our economic vitality for the next 100 years, not that reflect the past 100.Read More »