E. Fork Irrigation gains $1.4 million grant for pipeline

News staff writer

October 11, 2006

The East Fork Irrigation District of Odell and the Hood River Watershed Group recently came a step closer to completing the largest cooperative conservation project ever attempted in the valley.

On Sept. 19, the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board announced that the district has been awarded a $1.4 million grant to help construct the third and final phase of the Central Lateral Pipeline Project.

The grant represents the fourth-largest award ever made by OWEB, an Oregon lottery-funded agency that has already contributed $700,000 to earlier phases of the project. The board made the decision at an annual grant award meeting in Bend, attended by East Fork Manager John Buckley and Steve Stampfli of the Hood River Watershed Group.

The Central Lateral Pipeline Project represents a keystone task under the Hood River Watershed Group’s 2002 Action Plan. East Fork is the valley’s oldest and largest irrigation district. Indeed, East Fork was responsible for installing the valley’s first fish screen in 1915.

Since inception, the district has faced many natural challenges, typified by receding glaciers, decreasing stream flow, high glacial sediment loads, and periodic glacial debris torrents.

Along with these natural challenges, portions of East Fork’s delivery system are in need of upgrading since some of the ditches leak water, pose partial barriers to fish migration, and merge with natural streams.

These aspects of the system can interfere with vital watershed functions, particularly water quality, fish passage and stream flow volume. The significance of these impacts is heightened in the Hood River Valley, based on the presence of five ESA-listed fish species. With contributions from OWEB, Hood River County, Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs, federal sources and others, the first two phases of a $10.5 million project have been completed.

“We are very thankful for OWEB’s continuing support of our project. Working with their board and staff has always been a very positive experience for us,” Buckley said after announcement of the large award.

Completion of the upcoming third phase will finally solidify all the benefits envisioned by East Fork and the Hood River Watershed Group partnership. At a cost of $4.2 million, the final phase will complete the final mile of pipe leading to the Lower Eastside Lateral. The new circuit utilizes an inverted siphon that will eliminate the longtime use of two miles of Neal Creek for routing irrigation water down the valley. By making this closed-loop connection, watershed partners will realize huge benefits.

First, 2-3 cubic feet per second of water will be conserved in the East Fork Hood River. Second, a significant fish barrier will be removed from Neal Creek, once the valley’s most important low elevation anadromous tributary.

Third, the new closed-loop system will finally eliminate a poorly functioning fish screen on Neal Creek.

Finally, sediment from irrigation water will no longer be introduced into the lower 7.5 miles of Neal Creek, which will realize significant improvements in water quality and fish habitat.

For more information on the Central Lateral Pipeline Project, please call John Buckley at 354-1185. Information on how people can get involved with similar projects through the watershed group can be obtained by calling Steve Stampfli at (541) 386-6063.

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