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Piping system to become reality for Klamath Project

Mitchell Brown, a relief ditch-rider for the Klamath Irrigation District, checks a flowmeter on an irrigation pipe on property outside of Klamath Falls in 2018.

With the help of $430,354 in federal funding for two major water efficiency projects, Klamath Irrigation District is making preliminary steps toward implementing an irrigation pipeline.

The irrigation district is one of 54 recipients of a total of $40.99 million in WaterSMART Water and Energy Efficient Grants from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. Oregon groups received a total $700,000 in funding.

KID anticipates water savings for both the Klamath Project – a total of 664 acre feet – as well as a way to provide more water for the refuge.

“This is really a piping project that reduces water loss to evaporation and to seepage and allows us to more precisely deliver water along that canal system without necessarily putting additional water at loss,” said KID manager Gene Souza. “We actually have a water savings by piping it.”

Reclamation awarded KID two separate grants to pipe and line the A Canal and convert it to a buried pipeline.

The materials for the piping system are the same as those utilized in Three Sisters Irrigation, according to Ty Kliewer, president of the KID board of directors.

Klamath Water Users Association staff toured the irrigation district in Sisters in January 2019 to take a look at the success that district has had with their pipeline system.

Kliewer said a lot more funding will be needed to complete the project but that that the recently awarded grant is a step forward.

“We’ve talking about it in theory for a couple years,” Kliewer said.

Kliewer said the approved funding will show other stakeholders in the Basin that, “Yes, we’re serious about doing this,” and being as efficient as possible with water resources.

Kliewer commended Souza and the KID staff for helping secure the water funds.

Souza, in his first year in the role, said the savings in water for the Project would be gradual – a few acre feet per day.

“It’s not a large sum of water that I’ll use all at once,” Souza said. “It’s a gradual savings. It’s a few drops here, a few drops there that are being saved over the 179-day irrigation season.”

But it is still celebrated, as many in the Basin know well that every drop counts.

“The idea with that is I don’t have to put that water into the system early to get everything charged and I don’t have to let that continuously flow through the system,” Souza said. “It stays in the lake a little bit longer, so with that, that will keep the lake levels up just a little bit … It will keep the lake elevations just slightly higher, which I think a number of stakeholders are looking for that.

Later on the in fall, Souza said it also helps provide for even a little bit longer irrigation season as well as the possibility to transfer water to the refuge, if needed.

“Water savings can not only benefit irrigation farmers but again, the ability to put that to beneficial use across the Project,” he added.

Souza said he submitted three overall applications for federal funding for water-related grants, with two of the three approved. A third application would have provided about $290,000 for a roughly $600,000 project to help implement a water management tracker system, which would modernize how the irrigation monitors water flow.

“I was hoping the third one would have been approved because that would have kind of been a better setup for us as we look at modernization, and our partnership with Farmers Conservation Alliance,” Souza said on Friday.

“I’m going to work with Reclamation to analyze how they scored it and beef up that package and address those shortcomings that were in there.”