Advancements in irrigation efficiency are on the horizon for farmers and orchardists in East Fork Irrigation District pending the completion of a federal environmental planning process that began in October 2018.

The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has reviewed the potential impacts of the East Fork Irrigation District Infrastructure Modernization Project and released a Draft Watershed Plan-Environmental Assessment (Draft Plan-EA) on Jan. 8.

East Fork Irrigation District proposes to pipe 56 miles of district-owned canals and laterals to conserve water, reduce energy use, improve operational efficiencies, increase public safety, and enhance fish and wildlife habitat in the Hood River Watershed.

By converting open-ditch irrigation canals into underground, closed-pipe systems, the proposed East Fork Irrigation District Infrastructure Modernization Project would eliminate water losses from end spills, saving an estimated 16.6 cubic feet per second, or 5,287 acre-feet annually, said a press release.

The project is sponsored by the East Fork Irrigation District, with funding and technical support from NRCS, in cooperation with Bonneville Power Administration, Energy Trust of Oregon, Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs, Hood River Watershed Group and Farmers Conservation Alliance.

NRCS and project partners will host a public meeting Wednesday, Jan. 29 from 6:30-7:30 p.m. to discuss the Draft Plan-EA, answer questions about the project, and collect public comments during a breakout session. The meeting will be hosted at the Pine Grove Grange, 2835 Van Horn Drive, Hood River.

The meeting location is accessible to persons with disabilities. Make a request for an interpreter for the hearing impaired or for other accommodations for persons with disabilities at least 48 hours before the meeting to Kate Hart, 541-716-6085 or kate.hart@fcasolutions.org.

The Draft Plan-EA is available for public review at www.oregonwatershedplans.org. Printed copies of the Draft Plan-EA are also available at the East Fork Irrigation District Office, (3500 Graves Road in Odell), the NRCS Field Office (6780 Highway 35 in Parkdale), and Farmers Conservation Alliance (102 State St. in Hood River).

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