Arnold Canal: Modernization, Conservation, or Decimation?

Produced by SAC supporter and videographer Adam Brown and SAC supporters Deb & Jerry Rudloff

When it comes to the Arnold Canal, many are unaware of how integrated it is to where we live here in Bend, OR. This video is to help you experience what John Muir states: “When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world.” The Arnold Irrigation District (AID) has plans to pipe this canal that stretches 13 miles from the Deschutes River where it feeds in to the designated historic flume in the Deschutes National Forest. It meanders through 4 large neighborhood areas including a 1 mile stretch along the river (flume), Deschutes River Woods, Woodside Ranch, and then the Tekampe/Rimfire/Horse Butte neighborhoods. At the end of the canal and its various laterals, excess water is often just lost as it dumps onto the desert and over-watered fields.

There are many reasons why piping the canal is not the only option, is not the best alternative, and is not the most cost effective. However, many of these were interestingly not part of AID’s Environmental Assessment. We hope you find this video informative and that it gives you a much better understanding of how after over 100 years of the canal’s existence, there is a complete interdependence with the wildlife, plants, habitats, vegetation, and thousands and thousands of trees. We look into AID’s reasons for piping including: Seepage, evaporation, safety, conservation, as well as what we’ve also discovered about these factors and how this canal helps keep local wells functioning. Likewise, we also give you a glimpse of what will happen by showing you Tumalo after their canal was piped…complete destruction and devastation. Many homeowners are also experiencing their water wells drying up, which is another costly expense that has not been taken into consideration in the overall devaluation of properties. Thousands of trees cut down and many are now dying off due to no water, and this is just after a year of the Tumalo piping aftermath.

Water provides for the trees, and the trees provide habitat, shade and refuge for wildlife like: Eagles, cougars, foxes, raccoons, porcupines, frogs, ducks and more. In fact, the trees provide habitat for at least 57 species of birds. These trees that are along the miles and miles of the Arnold Canal not only create shade (as you’ll see) that causes the conservation of energy because of the lower temperatures in these areas, but they also provide carbon offset.

Arborists have said that trees that aren’t cut down in Arnold’s 50 to 150 foot right of ways along the canal, will more than likely be impacted because they are dependent on the water seepage from the canal. If the canal is piped, there won’t be seepage, so literally thousands and thousands of more trees will die as Tumalo is now experiencing. These ecosystems are being destroyed. The other alternatives to piping (like lining with gunite or shotcrete) would allow for some minimal water seepage which helps keeps everything alive and healthy, reducing the negative impact on local wells. In addition, these options are far less costly and still extremely effective (it’s already being implemented along certain portions of the canal with little to no maintenance nor damage after decades of it being put into place).

As you can see, this is far more than 100’s of neighbor’s backyards being threatened by the proposed piping, it’s about the interdependence of the canal’s water with the trees and forests, wildlife, riparian environments, conservation, and designated wild and scenic areas along the Deschutes River that will be barren and scarred forever. In addition, over 300 wells within 1 mile of the of the canal can expect to require deepening or complete redrilling as they dry up from not being filled by the canal’s water seepage. This includes municipal and private water supplies, homeowners and irrigators. Benjamin Franklin said: “When the wells dry, we know the worth of water.” What if this was your backyard and your property? The canal also gives the property owners the ability to help fight fires that we all know have become an all too familiar site during our hot summers in Central Oregon.

There is also a potential for the new spec rock and fill dirt roads that will be built to bury the canal pipe so they can bring in all their heavy equipment for piping and removing huge heritage pine trees. This road material may fall into and contaminate the Deschutes River near Lava Island Falls due to the steep and shorter hillsides where the flume runs along the river. This could have devastating effects beyond which have been researched.

The collateral damages could equal or exceed the expected cost of piping, and possibly double AID’s $87 million. The cost analysis just doesn’t support the piping and spending of tax payers’ money. Is it worth it when there are more effective, less invasive and less expensive possibilities?

Help us protect our canal, our wildlife, our trees, our waters, and our community.

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