The Deschutes River Conservancy and Tumalo Irrigation District are partnering to offer their annual water leasing program again in 2017. Each year of a lease counts as a year of beneficial use, thereby preserving the validity of your water right. You may lease all or part of your irrigation rights. In 2016, the Tumalo Irrigation District and its patrons contributed 243 acres and 3.15 cfs instream to Tumalo Creek and the Deschutes River. 4,545 acres and 58.8 cfs were leased basin wide, resulting in additional flows to Whychus Creek, Tumalo Creek, the Crooked River, and very significantly increasing flows in the middle Deschutes. Protecting water with leasing increases flows in the Deschutes below Bend by up to 30%.
Under the program, water right holders are paid on a per acre foot basis to leave their water rights in the river. The funding for this program is contingent on grant funding and will be paid on a pro-rated basis. 2017 TID leases will be paid at $8.50 per acre foot for measurable water instream at the end of the lease season. For example, if the lease duty is 10 acre feet but only 8 acre feet are measured instream, then only 8 acre feet will be paid.
The District and the DRC are working together to increase payments to participants.
The District and the DRC signed an updated leasing agreement in 2015, the new agreement means the DRC is able to pay for leased water that is managed by the District to flow past the diversion prior to its final approval by the state. State approval of leases has occurred later and later each year. In 2013 and prior years, the DRC could not pay for water the District allowed past the diversion prior to the final approval date of the lease by the state, even if this water was instream. With the updated agreement describing diversion management, the District does not change how it has been managing the water – but the DRC can pay for water that it has not been able to pay for in previous years. In addition, lease payments increased from $7.00 per acre foot up to $8.50 per acre foot in 2015. These combined changes increased lease payments.
What else is happening to help landowners participating in leasing? The District is working to reduce the cost of mapping for instream leases while the DRC looks for funding to also reduce this cost.
For more information or to sign up, contact Deborah at TID (541-382-3053) before March 10, 2017. Early notification is strongly encouraged to allow time to prepare the documents. Please note: You are still responsible for your assessment, which must be paid in full before your lease can be approved.
Instream leasing is a beneficial use that protects your water right from forfeiture and allows for compensation for this instream use, but please note that it does not automatically protect against loss of farm use special assessment. Exclusive Farm Use (EFU) zoned lands may still require at least minimal use with the intent to make a profit if fallowed for more than one year.
The DRC assumes participants in the Leasing Program will continue to exercise agricultural best management practices on lands enrolled in the Program, particularly with respect to the control of noxious and/or nuisance weeds. Failure to control weeds on leased acres may result in exclusion of payment from the Program.
Payment for leases each year is contingent on grant funding: leases with unaddressed weed issues, leases of less than 5 acres and leases with public entities are not paid.
The Deschutes River Conservancy implements voluntary, market based approaches to water management. It is a non-profit organization that facilitates a wide range of transactions and discussions between agriculture, industry and municipal interests to increase streamflow and water quality in the Deschutes Basin.
For additional information contact Gen Hubert at 541-382-4077, ext. 16 or firstname.lastname@example.org.