The following contribution from guest blogger, Mike Tripp who is the Conservation Chair of the Deschutes Chapter of Trout Unlimited rebuts an oft-repeated statement by city representatives and councilors.
In June of 2011 the Deschutes Chapter of Trout Unlimited posted a position statement on City of Bend’s Surface Water Improvement Project (http://www.deschutestu.org/). The position statement called for reevaluation of the SWIP, with emphasis on proper economic valuation of instream flows, and continued efforts by all parties to restore cold water flows to promote improved aquatic habitat in the Middle Deschutes.
Subsequently on multiple occasions, city staff and councilors have acknowledged the goal as laudable, but expressed their opinion that this goal would be better and more cheaply met by working with Tumalo Irrigation District, rather than turning to city water, for restoration of instream flows.
This subject was recently reviewed with the Deschutes River Conservancy. The Tumalo Irrigation District Tumalo Feed Canal piping project was initially proposed in 2007.
The total project will conserve 11.8 cfs of Tumalo Creek water (4,306 acre-feet) and 2,732 acre-feet of stored water from Crescent Creek. At the time that TID initially proposed the project in 2007, they estimated that the project would cost around $17 million. This figure has likely gone up, but DRC does not have an updated estimate of the total project cost. TID is proposing that the public pay for the entire project. If they are successful in raising public funding for the entire amount, then 100% of the conserved water will be protected instream. If TID pays for a portion of the project with their own funds, then a commensurate share of the water will go to TID to help firm up their water supply.
The DRC has partnered with TID to complete two phases of the project, which have resulted in a combined 3 cfs of protected flow in Tumalo Creek. Based on past projects and the 3 cfs from the first two phases of the Tumalo Feed project, there is now 9 cfs of permanently protected base flow of sufficient seniority to be present in the creek during the summer months. If and when the district can finance and implement the remaining portion of the project, base flows will increase by another 8.8 cfs, bringing total protected flows up to 17.8 cfs.
Unfortunately, 17.8 cfs is well short of the 32 cfs flow target established by ODFW for lower Tumalo Creek. To the DRC’s knowledge, there are no other agreements in place with TID to implement any additional conservation projects once the Tumalo Feed project is complete.
Thus restoring flows through TID conservation projects will entail a large public cost, more than $17M. Even if this project is completed, lower Tumalo flows will still be 45% below ODFW’s flow target.
However, if one compares the City of Bend’s Tumalo water rights of 21.5 cfs to the cost and quantity of restorable flows through TID conservation projects, it is apparent that economic analyses of SWIP should include opportunity costs of $20M or more for diverted Tumalo flows.
The city has emphasized that restoration of Tumalo flows is a laudable goal, but beyond the Tumalo Feed Canal piping mentioned here, there are no concrete plans developed to achieve it and no financial resources dedicated for the purpose. The Deschutes Water Alliance (DWA) will be working to address the issue, but is a long way from producing a water management scenario that basin stakeholders can rally around. And once a water management scenario is agreed to, financing for the effort is quite uncertain.
In the near term, if the City wants to advance the laudable goal, it would need to consider alternatives to SWIP for the city water utility.
Deschutes Chapter Trout Unlimited