Link to Owner Dr. Robert B. Pamplin Jr.



Board chooses caution, doesn't want to add water only to take it back mid season

PMG PHOTO: PAT KRUIS - The North Unit Irrigation District board will stick with it's .45 acre foot allotment, for now at least. The allotment is less than a quarter of the water Jefferson County farmers get in normal years. The wet spring doesn't offset the prior years of drought, or the dry conditions expected the rest of the year. The board may revisit an increase July 1.

While the cold, wet spring so far has brought a promising beginning to the Jefferson County irrigation season, the North Unit Irrigation District board is not ready to ease up on its conservative allotment to patrons.

The board started the season with an allotment of .45 acre feet of water per acre for patrons, a meager amount of water when in an average year growers get between two and three acre feet.

"I'm just trying to be cautious," said Josh Bailey, NUID general manager.

The district has delivered little of the water it expects to deliver to patrons over the season.

"If we continue down this road," said Board Member Vern Bare, referring to the cooler, wetter weather trends, "there's still a possibility to add water."

"Yes," said Bailey, "but we don't want to take it back."

Last year the board started the season with what it considered a conservative allotment of one acre foot. Halfway through the season drought conditions forced them to cut the allotment back twice, ending the irrigation season early and with only .8 acre foot of water.

The cutbacks stranded farmers with crops they could no longer water and bring to harvest.

"The snowpack is looking good, but it's hard to tell how it will affect this season," said Bailey. "Hot or warm rain could wash away the snowpack quickly."

NUID Board Chair Marty Richards says snowpack behaves differently in the Deschutes Basin than in almost any other watershed in the country.

"The Deschutes Basin is entirely spring fed. When the snowpack melts, it puts the water in the aquifer," said Richards, "which should bring up water for next year."

The NUID based this season's allotment on water it expected to receive from Central Oregon Irrigation District, which serves patrons primarily in Deschutes County. COID installed piping to conserve water that would otherwise seep into the ground or evaporate.

COID agreed to provide NUID with 45 cubic feet per second of water it expected to conserve. Operational difficulties with that new pipeline means the conserved water for NUID has not materialized.

Last year the Deschutes Valley Water District sold water to NUID. This year the DVWD decided not to continue with that program.

The NUID board will revisit the issue of increasing the allotment. Many have a target date of July 1 to increase the allotment from .45 to .55 acre feet.

Board members are even tentative about that date, waiting to see how the weather develops over the rest of the season before they're willing to commit.

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