< Back to list of FY 2007-2009 projects

200724200 - Fifteenmile Subbasin Efficient Irrigation Technology

Sponsor: Wasco County Soil & Water Conservation District (SWCD)

Budgets: FY07: $423,912 | FY08: $424,413 | FY09: $425,005

Short description: Project will upgrade irrigation technology on 1,000 acres of orchard land from impact sprinklers (~65% efficient) to microsprinklers or drip irrigation with mulch (95% efficient or better). Total water savings are estimated at 900 acre-feet per year.

view full proposal

Final Council recommendation (Nov 2006)

Funding category: Expense

Recommended budgets: FY07: $0 | FY08: $0 | FY09: $0


ISRP final recommendation: Response requested


Overall, this is a promising proposal for reducing water loss through evaporation. This project does include provisions for reserving water saved to instream rights, which is good. However, the ISRP requests that certain issues be addressed before a final funding recommendation is made: An important missing piece from the proposal is whether this additional water saved would be meaningful in terms of benefits to fish and wildlife. How far downstream on the creek would the saved water accrue? It appears that the water saved would be in the lower portion of the watershed for orchardists. Is this the key area for steelhead rearing? Or is the water really needed in the upper watershed? The project should meet the criteria used to select and prioritize projects by the Fish and Wildlife Program's Water Transaction project run by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, project 200201301. Would it be more cost effective to purchase the water rights? A response is needed to describe the monitoring plan to evaluate the effectiveness of the project. The technical background is fairly well explained, but it is not clear why this project was separated from the Water and Economics Optimization project, which also provides tools for irrigation water conservation. This proposal is for upgrading the orchard irrigation systems on about 450 acres per year. It was a little unclear how much additional instream flow this would provide to the Fifteen Mile Creek system, but later in the proposal it is claimed that mulching 200 acres yielded 1/2 cfs over 100 days. It would have been helpful if the proposal had presented a map of fish distribution and the location of orchards where new technology might be applied -- this would have provided better context for the work. The proposal links the work to the Fish and Wildlife Program, the Fifteenmile subbasin assessment, and the BiOp; it supports the Low Flow Restoration strategy of the Fifteenmile Subbasin Plan, which calls for a 50% recovery of historic flows as a high priority strategy for steelhead restoration. The proposal listed other projects but did not go into a lot of detail about how it would be directly related to them. However, the restoration diagram (Figure 1) was an effective means of showing the overall goals of the different Fifteenmile Creek efforts. A little more detail about how this project would directly collaborate with the others would be helpful. The biological objective given was the general objective of approximately doubling the number of steelhead smolts from Fifteenmile Creek, which included a 50% recovery of historic streamflows. The proposal does not specify how much incremental flow this particular project would supply by itself, but it does say that if combined with the water optimization modeling project the total increase in flow may amount to 50%. However, under a best-case scenario of improving irrigation systems on 1,000 acres, the proposal states that water diversions for those 1,000 acres would be reduced by about 30%. It would have been helpful if the proposal had translated this change into monthly streamflow increments. In terms of science, there is not much in the work elements on which to comment. Most are process-related. It would help if priority setting included fields and orchards upstream from known spawning and important rearing sites. The proposal did not include any provisions for monitoring streamflows after the upgraded irrigation systems were installed. Facilities and personnel seemed reasonable. Information will apparently be disseminated locally by Wasco County SWCD staff. Focal species are likely to enjoy long-term benefits of increased flows, although the incremental increase in total flow in Fifteenmile Creek, and the projected benefits to steelhead, cutthroat trout, and lamprey are not provided in the proposal. Non-focal species are not mentioned, but aquatic species are likely to benefit from the project.

State/province recommendation: Not fundable

Review group: OSPIT - Gorge

Recommended budgets: FY07: $0 | FY08: $0 | FY09: $0

Comment: Though OSPIT supports the work the project is trying accomplish, budget constraints and the uncertainty of the amount of water savings prevent us from supporting this project at this time.