The Fix Is In–It’s About The Money…

AID pretends to frame their proposed 13-mile piping project as a fish and threatened species habitat conservation effort—it’s not. This is AID’s federal funding money-grab designed to line their pockets and their out-of-state pipe supplier’s at severe cost to homeowners, the local environment and the upper Deschutes Wild and Scenic Area. Water losses to seepage are a big problem for the AID canal and reducing seepage would enable the District to keep more water in Wickiup reservoir to improve upper Deschutes habitat and help transfer water to farmers… BUT there are other ways to reduce seepage that don’t come with the extreme costs of a pipeline.

The list of problems with a pipeline is long:

–The historic flume near Lava Island Falls will be piped and buried like an earthen dam with a road on top, possibly altering the right channel of the river and leaving a monstrous visual scar to be seen from the River Trail.

–For owners abutting the canal (430), this will mean enduring a 7-year construction project extending an alleged 50’ right-of-way from the canal edge into their yards, a massive reduction in property values, a loss of many mature pine trees, other vegetation and the loss of wildlife that rely on this 115-year-old canal for water, habitat and travel.

–All residents in the 13-mile project area will be affected by the 7-year construction corridor and the loss of wildlife in the area as well as by new and unknown forced migration patterns of wildlife seeking water. And we all know that dead and dying vegetation, plus heavy equipment equals increased fire danger. –Owners in the broader area with wells can expect those to dry up and have to be deepened (if they meet code) or re-drilled entirely at the cost of $40/foot—average well depth in Bend is 500’.

What should be done instead? How do we save water, help farmers and improve threatened species habitat in the upper Deschutes?

Line the canal to greatly reduce seepage—don’t pipe it. Leave the historic flume alone, it’s not the problem. Consider non-structural solutions like water banking, on-farm improvements, winter stock run reductions & irrigation season modifications.

There are a variety of different lining techniques that greatly reduce seepage for the sake of keeping water in Wickiup reservoir but they don’t stop seepage completely, like a pipe does. This kind of “engineered seepage” serves everybody’s (and the canal ecosystem’s) interests with very little downside.

–Shotcrete and grout-filled-mattress style canal lining is durable, inexpensive (way cheaper than AID’s outlandish cost claims in their E.A.) and they’re aesthetically pleasing. They’re already used in many spots on the Arnold canal.

–These techniques can be applied by local providers, improving our local economy.–They’re time-tested! Arnold Canal’s test segments of these lining styles between China Hat Rd. and Highway 97 have been in place for 30-years, are cited as successes in canal lining studies worldwide and are still in great shape–but Arnold Irrigation District claims they’ve “failed.”

Why won’t Arnold talk about their plans for the flume? Because they think they can sneak it by you. Why won’t Arnold talk about canal lining? Because the big, lazy money comes with the pipe, period. They’ve even hired a so-called environmental consultant that pumps out Environmental Assessments and other pro-piping analyses like a puppy mill but partners with a 3.5-billion-dollar corporation in California that does…guess what? Installs the pipe they want to replace our canal with.

A Recap and Update from Save Arnold Canal

Dear Neighbors,

We’d like to present a bit of a recap of the recent milestones in the administrative process of the proposed Arnold Irrigation District Infrastructure Modernization project and provide some pertinent information about what our opposition effort has planned going forward.

We, like most of you, were made aware of the District’s plan to pipe 13-miles of the main canal over two years ago and attended the first public meeting at Elk Meadow Elementary school where we were introduced to AID’s environmental consultant Farmers Conservation Alliance (FCA) and treated to their lip service and question-dodging skills for the first time. We, like many of you, submitted our public comments to the Preliminary Investigative Report on the proposed plan and then heard nothing more about it for two years until AID’s draft Environmental Proposal was published on June 8, 2021.

Upon reading the draft EA a few important concerns became apparent and remain so: 1-our public comments had been largely dismissed; 2-costs to property owners caused by the pipe project (reduced property values, loss of trees & vegetation, impacts to wells and impacts to wildlife) were ignored; 3-other viable alternatives to piping were summarily dismissed or were simply not explored; 4-the plan’s treatment of the flume portion of the canal offends the legal protections of the federal Wild and Scenic River Act and Oregon Scenic Waterway Act.

On June 23, many of us attended a public comment Zoom meeting hosted by AID and FCA to address questions and discuss concerns of the proposed pipeline. The results were in line with previous interactions with AID and FCA in that their answers were vague or misleading. It was clear that while not guaranteed to make a difference, our submittal of as many public comments of opposition as possible would be our next best step in opposing this plan. A few of us requested and received an extension to the public comment period, which pushed it out to July 23, 2021.

As a testament to all your efforts in this public comment outreach endeavor, follow-up with the FCA and the National Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), who oversees this administrative process and controls the federal purse strings for the proposed project, has revealed that over 400 public comments were received. Gary Diridoni of the NRCS said that while it usually takes two to three months to analyze public comments for a draft EA, he estimated that the analysis phase for this EA “…Could take three to six months because we’ve never had this many public comments before.” Good work everyone.

We are now in the interim period between public comment and a decision that will be made by NRCS about how the project will move forward or not. The likely possible decisions that could be rendered are: 1-AID and FCA are directed to revise the draft EA and re-submit it for another round of public comment (the revisions could include changes to the flume plan and/or exploration of alternatives other than piping); 2-AID and FCA are directed to produce an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), which is essentially an EA on steroids that must take a deeper dive into the concerns specified in our public comments (this process could take up to 4-years according to NRCS); 3-NRCS issues a Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI), which green-lights the project as defined in the EA for commencement into further design and implementation.

Decisions 1 or 2, above, would be “wins” for our opposition movement as they force some degree of change to the plan as it stands now, and might open the door for collaborative solutions that help solve the challenges of maintaining water levels in the upper Deschutes for threatened and endangered species habitat and ensuring farmers have water for crops–without the extreme costs of piping.

Decision 3, above, would be a failure of our efforts to change the trajectory of the current proposal, but this final judgement on the part of the NRCS would also serve as the procedural trigger for any lawsuits to be filed against NRCS initially and subsequently filed against AID. There is no opportunity for legal action against these entities until a decision of FONSI is made.

Our group, Save Arnold Canal, has been meeting regularly and working in partnership with the Papé family team to promote thoughtful media coverage of the issue and explore our options for possible collaboration with the AID board of directors to enable a change in tack. The family, who own several parcels that touch the main canal totaling roughly 200 acres, have been involved in this issue for two years, and their concerns about this flawed plan are the same as all of ours.

Save Arnold Canal is currently evolving into a legally formed nonprofit organization and is working toward transferring the legal representation of Brian Sheets (BRS Legal, Ontario, OR https://brs.legal/) from individuals in the group to representation of the whole Save Arnold Canal group. He has been involved since late June and has represented clients in a similar situation to preserve the Pilot Butte Canal in the Central Oregon Irrigation District where they were successful in stopping piping. We are preparing for litigation in the case of a FONSI decision.

We will have details soon for how those of you who will be directly impacted by this proposed piping project and who oppose it can get involved as a supporter of this action. What has been shown to be important in cases like these are large numbers of individuals who are invested in the process, rather than folks who may be opposed but remain sitting on the sidelines. Our goal will be to make registration for support of Save Arnold Canal’s mission and legal representation low-cost and simple so that we can create as much impact in our favor as possible.

In the meantime, we are focused on educating as many of our friends and associates about this complex issue as possible. A few of the important things to know are:

Water that seeps into the groundwater from the canal sustains an ecosystem and wells (over 500)…it’s not all bad

There are less costly ways than piping to reduce seepage to protect Deschutes habitat and help farmers

This plan will not ensure better drought resistance for irrigators in Arnold Irrigation District nor improve their water delivery over what they have now

If you’re interested to learn more about the proposed project and what should be done instead of piping the Arnold Irrigation District main canal, check out the website www.savearnoldcanal.org and feel free to send any questions or comments to us at savearnoldcanal@gmail.com.

Sincerely,

The founding members of Save Arnold Canal

Bill Calder, Rhonda Coleman & Ralph Emerson, Liz & Mark Elling, Carol Guptail, Alan Keyes, Geoff Reynolds, Deb & Jerry Rudloff, Ruby Swanson, Rosalina Wong

Destroy The Historic Flume?

Before it enters the main canal, the water passes through an historic elevated flume along the banks of the river, including Lava Island Falls, a popular world class kayaking destination. Arnold Irrigation District proposes to bury the flume and construct a road on top of it that would be a mile-long eyesore visible from the River Trail along the west bank of the river and will possibly deposit massive amounts of construction material into the river, illegally altering the river’s right channel.

This earthen dam-like monstrosity along the federally protected Wild and Scenic Upper Deschutes River would be visible to hikers along the river, residents on the west bank and visitors who stay at Seventh Mountain Resort. The heavy equipment used to bury the flume would cause other collateral damage to wildlife habitat and private property as well.

We are concerned that Arnold Irrigation District owns over 7-acres of riverfront property adjacent to their flume project area, directly across the river from Widgi Creek Golf Course yet it fails to disclose its plans for this property and how their modernization project might enhance its value.

This proposed project is screaming for an Environmental Impact Statement.

Here is a video showing plans to bury the flume portion of the Arnold Canal near Lava Island Falls on the Wild and Scenic Deschutes River.

Wells, Plants & Wildlife Will be Negatively Affected

While there is an urgent need to conserve irrigation water to maintain more water in the upper Deschutes for threatened species habitat and help struggling farmers, piping causes a massive amount of collateral damage. Piping completely eliminates seepage that infiltrates into the ground and shallow aquifers. As has already been seen after other piping projects (Swalley and Tumalo Irrigation Districts) have been completed, nearby wells have failed and are having to be re-drilled at owners’ expense. Any trees that have become habituated to the 115-year-old seasonal water source will die after piping–not to mention the thousands that will be cut down to clear the pipeline’s construction area. AID has no idea what habitat and migration changes will be forced on wildlife that use the canal corridor, but simply hoping for the best is not a responsible plan.

There are several alternative solutions to piping that address all of these issues. A variety of canal lining technologies would substantially reduce seepage but allow enough to replenish groundwater to minimize negative impacts to wells, keep trees and vegetation alive and allow wildlife access to water. It would maintain an open canal to allow emergency pumping of water in the case of a wildfire. It would save thousands of trees that help offset greenhouse gasses. It would cost 200 to 400 percent less than piping. This video explains the problems with piping and better solutions that are available.

Simple, common sense solutions like canceling or reducing winter-time stock runs (where the canal is run at full volume for several days to benefit only a few irrigators and the excess is poured out into a field at the end of the canal) would hold back a sizable volume of water for improved Deschutes flows. Delaying the start of the irrigation season past the still night-freeze-prone date of April 15th and shutting down the season sooner than the typical October 15th end of operations could save massive amounts of water when it’s not as needed by irrigators. Exploring the non-structural and policy solutions of water banking, aquifer management and water rights legislation could all yield substantial water savings.

Starting to solve our broader water resource challenges starts with people, not piping. Piping is a politically convenient, knee-jerk reaction that will cost taxpayers over $40 million and do more harm than good. It’s time that Arnold Irrigation District stopped avoiding Deschutes County residents and its own patrons and came to the table to find a collaborative way forward that works for all parties.

Stop The Pipe! It Doesn’t Work for People.

Starting in 2022, the scenic and ecosystem-sustaining Arnold Canal could be filled in.
Consequences include:

• Negatively Impacting Groundwater Wells
• Destroying/Damaging Trees and Vegetation
• Destroying Wildlife Habitat
• Property Damage, Dust and Noise During Construction
• Reducing Property Value

This seven-year, $42 Million project will help few and harm many.

Not even AID’s irrigating patrons are confident that the pipe will improve their water delivery–there isn’t enough elevation drop to support a pressurized delivery system and many of AID’s delivery issues are on their laterals system, not the main canal.

There are alternative solutions! But there can be no discussion until this “All Or Nothing” steamroller of a proposal is stopped.

Questions? Visit our FAQ or Email: savearnoldcanal@gmail.

Voice Your Opposition!
Send an E-mail, write a letter or phone your government representatives:

U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon
https://www.merkley.senate.gov/contact
131 NW Hawthorne Ave., Ste. 208, Bend, OR 97703
(541) 318-1298

U.S. Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon
https://www.wyden.senate.gov/contact/email-ron
131 NW Hawthorne Ave., Suite 107, Bend, OR, 97701
(541) 330-9142

US Representative Cliff Bentz
https://bentz.house.gov/contact  

OR Representative Jack Zika
900 Court St. NE, H-387, Salem, Oregon 97301
(503) 986-1453
Rep.JackZika@oregonlegislature.gov

OR Senator Tim Knopp
900 Court St. NE, S-425
Salem, Oregon 97301
(503) 986-1727
Sen.TimKnopp@oregonlegislature.gov

Deschutes County Commissioners:
PO Box 6005, Bend, OR 97708-6005
(541) 388-6570

Patti Adair
Patti.Adair@deschutes.org

Phil Chang
Phil.Chang@deschutes.org

Tony DeBone
Tony.DeBone@deschutes.org