NUID Manager Mike Britton gives the water outlook report at the Farm Fair.The irrigation water outlook is good for the coming season, but the following year may see cutbacks, according to reports given by Mike Britton and Jeremy Giffin at the Central Oregon Farm Fair, Feb. 5.

Britton, manager of North Unit Irrigation District, said Wickiup Reservoir was at 84 percent capacity (full is 200,000 acre feet) and was expected to fill by April 1.

“But with a decrease in snowpack and natural stream flows, it could have an impact on the district in the future. We will see how February and March shape and have a better indication of how water use will be for the district,” he said,

Recapping the 2013 season, Britton said a total of 121,887 acre feet of water was delivered to users (from Crooked River and Wickiup), and 76,369 acre feet of water were lost during canal transportation.

Giffin, area watermaster with the Oregon Water Resources Department, noted, “We’ve been filling reservoirs ahead of schedule despite the (light snow) season and are in good shape. (Both reports were given before the big snowfall. Up to then, some Snotel sites were recording the lowest snowpacks on record since 1973 when the measuring sites started).

On the flip side, Griffin said the Prineville Reservoir was only 53 percent full, which he said was “terrible for this time of year.”

With regional snowpacks at 32 percent of normal at the time of his talk, and summer streamflows dependent on melting snow, Giffin said, “We will end up very low in Wickiup at the end of the summer if the weather doesn’t change.” But two back-to-back snowstorms right after the Farm Fair, on Feb. 6 and 7, definitely helped the snowpack situation.

Reporting on NUID projects, Britton said Endangered Species Act challenges include having the spotted frog, which is threatened, and four fish species -- bull trout, chinook salmon, sockeye salmon and steelhead -- which have just been reintroduced to the area, within the district.

“We have endangered species within our operations. The spotted frog is threatened and Wickiup Reservoir could be designated as a critical habitat,” Britton said.

Several small hydropower projects are being built on NUID waterways. “There are dozens of these all over the district, all being done by private developers,” Britton said, noting it was cost-prohibitive for the district to build and maintain them.

NUID is continuing its piping of the 58-11 lateral to conserve water by putting it in a 48-inch pipe instead of an open canal.

Future projects include the installation of a fish passage at the north canal diversion in Bend, and replacing old fish screens at the Bend diversion.

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