(January 11, 2023) – The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in Oregon has released a Final Watershed Plan-Environmental Assessment (EA) and a Finding of No Significant Impact for the North Unit Irrigation District Infrastructure Modernization Project.
NRCS Oregon has determined that the project will not cause significant local, regional, or national impacts to the environment. With a completed environmental assessment in place, the project is now eligible for federal funding and may move forward into final design and construction.
The project will install 27.5 miles of gravity-pressurized, buried pipe; upgrade 153 turnouts; and construct four 1,000 cubic-yard retention ponds, each approximately 0.5 acres in size. The project will improve water conservation on District-operated laterals; improve water delivery reliability and drought resilience to NUID irrigators; reduce NUID’s operation and maintenance costs; reduce operational spills into natural waterbodies; and improve streamflow, water quality, and habitat in the Deschutes River.
By converting the open-ditch irrigation canal into a buried, closed-pipe system, North Unit Irrigation District Infrastructure Modernization Project will reduce water loss from seepage and evaporation, saving an estimated 6,089 acre-feet annually and reducing operational spill returns to nearby natural waterbodies. Following project completion, 4,567 acre-feet of the water saved annually by the project would augment water supplies for NUID’s existing patrons, helping to fulfill existing water rights, and alleviate water supply shortages across the District. The remaining 1,522 acre-feet of water saved annually would be allocated for instream purposes and released into the upper Deschutes River during the non-irrigation season.
The project is a joint effort among NRCS Oregon, Bureau of Reclamation as a cooperating agency, North Unit Irrigation District, Deschutes Basin Board of Control, and Farmers Conservation Alliance, in coordination with other agencies, stakeholders, and the public.
The Final EA and other supporting documents for the project can be found below under Final Documents.
The project may be partially funded through the Watershed and Flood Prevention Program, administered by NRCS and authorized by Public Law 83-566. Through this program, NRCS provides technical and financial assistance to local organizations (project sponsors) for planning and carrying out projects that help solve natural resource and related economic problems in a specific watershed. These issues can include watershed protection, flood prevention, erosion and sediment control, water supply, water quality, fish and wildlife habitat enhancement, and wetlands creation.
On October 2, 2019 the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) announced a public scoping meeting and public scoping period to consider improvements to aging irrigation infrastructure in North Unit Irrigation District, located in Jefferson County south of Madras, Oregon. A public scoping meeting was held
October 21, 2019 at the Jefferson County Public Library. Public scoping comments were accepted from October 2, 2019 through November 21, 2019. Scoping period documents are located below, including the presentation from the meeting.
On July 6, 2022, NRCS released a Draft Watershed Plan-Environmental Assessment (Draft Plan-EA) for the proposed project. NRCS, the District, and Farmers Conservation Alliance hosted a virtual public meeting on July 25, 2022 from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. to discuss the Draft Plan-EA and answer questions about the project. The meeting was held virtually using Zoom and you can find a recording of the meeting here. The Draft Plan-EA can be viewed in the Project Documents below. A printed copy of the Draft Plan-EA was also available at the Jefferson County Public Library.
Public comments on the Draft Plan-EA were accepted from July 6, 2022 through August 10, 2022. Comments were accepted via email, online form, phone, and mail.
For further information please contact:
Farmers Conservation Alliance
Farmers Conservation Alliance is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization which, as a federal contractor, is assisting NRCS and the sponsors in the Watershed Plan - Environmental Assessment process.
Please note: Before including your address, phone number, email address, or other personal identifying information in your comment, be advised that your entire comment – including your personal identifying information – may be made publicly available at any time. While you can ask us in your comment to withhold from public review your personal identifying information, we cannot guarantee that we will be able to do so.
Further information on the public involvement process can be found at the Council of Environmental Quality's Citizens Guide to NEPA.
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