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TUMALO IRIRGATION DISTRICT BOARD OF DIRECTORS ANSWERS TO QUESTIONS

Tumalo Irrigation District’s (TID) board of directors is committed to open communication and transparency with respect to ongoing operations and system improvement projects. 

The board is aware of a list of questions concerning the current system improvement project which has been ongoing in phases for over twenty years. To assist you in better understanding TID’s efforts, the board provides the following answers to these questions.

Why is there no valuation put on patron’s loss of value to their property?

Some find aesthetic value in open irrigation ditches. The TID board and staff understand this and realize that it can be a very personal and emotional connection. However, it is important to remember that the canals and laterals are part of the infrastructure for a quasi-public utility. They were created and exist solely to transport irrigation water to the patrons of TID. They were not developed or maintained for aesthetic values.

Property subject to an irrigation district right-of-way, or any other type of easement, are “servient” to the easement holder’s rights such that, by their very nature, they can result in “devaluation” of the property owner’s interests. Devaluation can occur because the easement limits / restricts your use of your property. For example, property owners subject to easements are prohibited from doing things on their property that unreasonably interfere with the easement holder’s ability to use the property for its operations, maintenance, and improvement. Court cases for many decades have upheld these rights and obligations. There is no legal basis for a claim of devaluation for activities easement holders are legally allowed to do within an easement. Courts have held that irrigation districts are legally permitted to pipe their existing canals and laterals whether the property owner consents or not because such conservation efforts are “encompassed within the scope of the easement.”

Again, although TID understands that the conversion of an open irrigation ditch to an underground pipe can impact property owners in both desirable and undesirable ways, the TID board of directors who are TID patrons themselves, have repeatedly determined after careful analysis and deliberation with experts and property owners that it is not only worth it but necessary to pursue the benefits of these system improvement projects for the significant environmental enhancements and preservation of the District’s ability to provide its patrons with water while addressing climate change, Endangered Species Act obligations, and third party lawsuits.

Will TID put my landscape back to what it was before piping?

TID will replant natural native vegetation (bunch grasses) in dryland areas, per USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) specifications. TID has tried many different mixes over the years and remains willing to discuss ‘special’ requests related to those mixes. Although requests must first be approved by the NRCS, so far, they have been very flexible on the mix. Farmed areas can be returned to the existing crop (hay, pasture, alfalfa, etc.) and the property owners will be required to irrigate those crops (and have an existing or new water rights for those areas). TID has also been discussing the possibility of adding more pollinators to some areas. This would require landowner cooperation, and depending on the pollinators, irrigation. Trees will not be replanted, per existing TID regulations, to within 25 feet of the pipelines. This is to protect the pipelines and TID facilities. Lack of maintenance over the past 100 years has resulted in the current overgrowth of trees along the open canals and is one of the contributing factors to the inefficiencies of the current system.

Why is the pipe so large, 36″ in diameter?

Pipe sizes are based on the amount of water we plan to transport through the pipeline. TID must also plan for the possibility of future changes to deliveries, such as when property owners need to transfer water from one location to another. There are also other factors that we must consider, such as engineering parameters like the ‘fall’ or the ‘slope’ of the pipe, the pipe material composition, angles, and bends, etc., all of which determine additional head-loss, the amount of head at the start of the pipeline, and the desired velocity (foot per second) of the water in the pipeline at full flow.

What about the impact on my land for a larger pipe specifically?

Every individual property will be different based on the needs of the system to continue to run irrigation water to our patrons. The remaining pipelines to be installed will vary in size from 60” dia. on the Columbia Southern, south of Reservoir road, to less than 2” dia. at the smaller end of the scale.

Why is the tree clearing and excavation so much wider than the pipe?

Safety is our priority, and the contractors need room to work. Basically, think of the trench width, plus the dirt removed from the trench, plus room for equipment to get by the trench and the spoils in a safe manner. We limit the size of the work area within the easement as much as possible. Not only to limit the landowner inconvenience, but to keep costs as low as possible. The less disturbed area, the less cost for the project.

When will they cut your trees?

As each property is different, we will meet with each individual landowner at their request before the project begins to discuss their options. Sometimes we can avoid removing trees, sometimes we cannot.

Will you guarantee that I will have a hook up ON MY LAND or are there cases where owners had to pipe across neighbor’s land to get their water?

TID cannot guarantee that there will be a turnout on your land because there are too many variables in the location of a turnout. However, piping gives you much more flexibility in the location of the turnout. It is possible to move many, if not most, turnout locations during the design and engineering process. And depending on pressure at certain locations, we can even make water go up hill. If you would like to move the location of your turnout, be sure to let TID personnel know when you meet with them.

If so, who assures a legal easement for that pipe?

TID easements have been established for over 100 years and will continue unless terminated or abandoned. In addition to easements for the operation, maintenance, and improvement of TID’s delivery systems, Oregon water law also establishes the right of downstream water users to access and maintain private waterways within its delivery system up to the TID easements.

What is their timeline for my land specifically?

This is a difficult question to answer because of many factors, and uncertainties. COVID-19 related issues have also impacted district funding options and timelines. Although the following timeline could change at any time, the current status is as follows:

Group 3. ~75% funded. TID hopes to start in 2020 but it may be delayed due to COVID-19 funding impacts. We will not know for sure until this fall, but we are progressing as if it will be funded. This project includes the Columbia Southern from the main canal at the outlet of the existing pipe, at the head of the Columbia Southern, to Tumalo Reservoir Road. From there we will connect to and pipe the Allen lateral to the end where Couch Market Road crosses the West Branch.

Group 6 partial. ~75% funded. Scheduled for 2021/22 and includes the Columbia Southern from Tumalo Reservoir Road to just after the head of the Hillburner Lateral (a few hundred feet east of Hwy 20 on the Columbia Southern).

Group 4. ~75% funded. Scheduled for 2022/2023. West Branch from the end of the Allen Lateral to the end of Gerking Market Road.

Group 6 partial. ~75% funded. Scheduled for 2023/24. The main Columbia Southern, as far as we can go until we run out of the Watershed Plan funding. We will be bypassing work on the smaller laterals to be done in-house.

Smaller laterals off the Columbia Southern will be completed as we secure funding and is scheduled for some time after 2025.

Couch Lateral – This lateral which is the only lateral connected to Tumalo Reservoir will not be part of the current project. It will not be pursued until the district applies for and secures another funding source which will likely not take place for several years.

Tumalo Reservoir – TID has started saving funds for Tumalo Reservoir, but the board has not made any specific plans yet – we welcome ideas!

How deep will they dig the ditch?

Trench depth will be deep enough to ensure 30-inches of cover over the pipe to final grade. This allows farming and such to occur over the buried pipeline. This also ensures the continuation of winter stock runs by getting the pipe below the local frost line. Depending on local conditions, the pipeline may require more or less cover.

Where will they trench?

The default location is in the canal, but this can be adjusted in some locations as the material we are using has fairly good flexibility. An example would be if we rerouted the canal to swing around a tree the property owner would like to maintain.

How will they make sure my pond still functions after they leave?

Pond function may or may not change. It is possible that your pond will not change at all.

If your pond overflows back into the canal and there is no longer a canal to accommodate that, it may require some type of auto shut-off for when your pond is full and there is not a good location for overflow.

Or it is possible that you will not need a pond at all. You can hook your system up directly to the pressurized water, which also eliminates pumping costs.

What costs I should expect to have to cover to make this system actually function with your system? (moving underground utilities for construction, dead tree removal after 2 years, refitting your system to work with theirs, pond overflow, etc).

Costs can of course vary, and the TID staff and board have no way to predict those. TID puts in a lot of time and effort to work with each homeowner. TID suggests that you to talk with your neighbors that live on a piped canal to learn more about the costs that they incurred. Overall, if you live on a pressurized portion of the pipeline, you will save far more in electrical costs you may have been incurring than it will cost you to hook up to the pipeline.

Where can I see examples of successful native plant re-establishment?

Before COVID-19, TID staff regularly provided tours. But with the current health regulations, we have not had the opportunity to offer tours this year. Most of our reseeding is of course on private land, but you can view some of the previous efforts on Bend Parks land in Shevlin Park, from our fish screening facilities downstream, and the First Street Rapids Trail in Bend in on one of the District’s pipelines. Also, where the main canal crosses Johnston Road and where it crosses Buck Drive are locations the reseeding can be viewed from a public road. The dryland bunch grasses we put in will take at least a few years to establish, but irrigated land can return in one season.

TID can also provide you photos of restored locations upon your request.

Who manages invasive species after you leave?

Roads and highways are the number one spreader of invasive weeds. The second most common contributor to the spread is open waterways. Stirring up the soil can also encourage weed growth, which is something to be aware of so that it can be addressed properly.

Property owners are generally responsible for invasive weed species on their property, including within TID’s easement. As part of the project, however, TID will seed the area to further prevent weed growth. The restoration seeding takes time to grow and take over the weeds . TID will hand pull or mow invasive weeds for two years after the project is complete, or until the reseeding is established (it could take more than one try to establish dryland seed). TID will not be able to get every single weed, but it will go through a couple of times during the season to deal with the invasive weeds. After this seeding process, property owners will be responsible for invasive species consistent with Oregon law and any applicable County ordinances, as they are now.

What is the criteria for tree cutting? Who makes the call?

TID’s easements permit it to remove trees or any other encroachments that unreasonably interfere with its right to operate, maintain, and improve the irrigation water deliver system. The District works with experienced tree cutters and other contractors to determine both the practical and safety needs which are then shared and discussed with the property owner. TID and its contractors consider any property owner preferences and accommodates them when practicable. Ultimately, if after exploring the available options, it is determined by TID and its contractors that a tree or trees need to be removed, TID will exercise its discretion to do so. This is necessary to ensure safety, to protect necessary access, and to reduce costs which can be significant.

Will I receive 100% of the water right that I own after piping?

You will receive your proportional share of the water that is available. That means that we take the water we receive, from either Tumalo Creek or Crescent Lake, and divide it up, prorated by your water right, and transport it to your turnout or point of delivery.

Will TID make sure current patrons get full use before letting additional water rights?

That has been our plan for the past 20 years and we have no intentions of changing that.

There has been some confusion over a letter that TID recently sent out offering patrons the opportunity to participate in our conservation project. To place conserved water instream, Oregon has rules and procedures that must be followed. One of the requirements is that we must offer our patrons the opportunity to participate in any conservation project, and in return they would receive a prorated share of the conserved water. For more information, please visit our web site at www.tumalo.org and look under About us/Governance/Policies/Water Conservation Policies. Here you can view our water conservation policy, which references the rules we must follow.

Will our rates go up?

Rates will likely always go up for a variety of reasons. But yes, they could also go up as a direct result of piping. We have not had to institute a piping surcharge yet, but someday we may need to.

We have been fortunate to have been awarded several different grants over the years that have allowed us to complete our piping projects with very little cost to our patrons. So far, we have been able to leverage funds from property sales to cover TID’s portion of the costs. However, there are still costs that are not covered under the grants, i.e. patron lawsuits, Endangered Species Act (ESA) lawsuits, and damage to the system pipes and canals.

TID has been extremely successful in obtaining grant funding from both the State and Federal government. We do what we promise to do, and within budget. Our current grantors appreciate that. However, there is always the possibility that the funding could stop. And if the funding stops, the projects stop. When that happens and if we do not have the water to support the endangered species, we will likely be sued again over the Endangered Species Act. And then the water may stop being delivered to anyone because it is out of our control.

It should also be noted that as long as we are proactive with our piping projects, we can receive Grant funding for our projects. If we were ordered by a court or required by a regulation to place water instream, we would no longer be eligible for the grants to pipe canals and would therefore have to fund these projects with our own funds – or not use the water.

 

More answers about the Watershed Plan can be found at https://oregonwatershedplans.org/