Group of Arnold Irrigation Residents and Patrons Seek Relief, Ask Judge for a Review of Federal Agency Action

BEND, OR – A group of concerned property owners and patrons of the Arnold Irrigation District (AID) have formally sued the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and AID in federal court for authorizing a new modernization project along a historic 12-mile canal in Deschutes County, alleging violations of the National Environmental Policy Act, the Watershed Protection and Flood Prevention Act and the Administrative Procedures Act.

The group, known as Save Arnold Canal, have been seeking a more collaborative solution to the water conservation challenges of AID since the project was revealed. Solutions that would benefit critical habitat of the upper Deschutes, farmers of North Unit Irrigation District as well as the residents, vegetation, landscape, and wildlife along the main canal corridor.

The group says the ‘modernization’ project expressly eliminated viable alternatives to piping along the canal. They are asking the court to review the NRCS Environmental Assessment and Finding of No Significant Impact for compliance with National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).

The group says AID inflated the costs of other alternatives to piping or simply refused to do a full and proper examination of them. Water-market-based solutions and non-membrane concrete lining are the two most-effective and least-expensive ways to solve the most problems with the fewest costs, quickly, and yet they remain the two alternatives that AID and the NRCS ignored.

Save Arnold Canal (SAC) is a local organization comprised of over 200 members and supporters who have been arguing against a pipeline as the only viable solution for modernization and have advocated for other alternatives for the past four years through a variety of different channels. Despite numerous public comments and discussions, the group feels it has been repeatedly denied a legitimate stakeholder’s voice in this matter.

The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) requires that Arnold Irrigation District and the NRCS take a “hard look” at the impacts the project would have on both the human and natural environment as well as fully explore viable alternative solutions. In the Environmental Assessment for the project, a document that is far less comprehensive than a full Environmental Impact Statement and was approved by the NRCS, the group says none of that has happened. The action filed today is asking a judge to require that the NRCS and AID to simply comply with the law.

The issues that concern the Committee that the group feels have been ignored throughout the entire process:

  • The pipeline’s construction and subsequent eradication of all seepage will kill thousands of mature ponderosa pine trees.
  • The eradication of all seepage will eliminate the seasonal recharge of shallow aquifers and negatively affect over 300 groundwater wells along the canal corridor.
  • The pipeline will destroy 12-miles of established seasonal riparian habitat as well as a wildlife water source and travel corridor.
  • The pipeline installed on private property is more intrusive than allowed by law, and will cause damage to over 430 landowners, reducing property values by up to 20%, by NRCS’s own admission.
  • AID acknowledges that the 40-feet of elevation drop from top to bottom of the canal will not allow for hydroelectric power generation, but they cannot substantiate their claims of a pipeline’s pressurized irrigation water delivery system.

Save Arnold Canal is a non-profit organization formed by concerned property owners in Deschutes County with the goal of seeking mutually beneficial alternatives to the Arnold Irrigation District’s massive modernization project. The group includes over 200 members and supporters and growing. For more information including public comments submitted, maps, documentation, and videos see Save Arnold Canal.

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