Swalley Irrigation District

Swalley Modernization Project Authorized to Move Forward

Piping project will keep more water in-stream for fish and sustain local agriculture 

(April 4, 2019) – Plans to continue modernizing aging irrigation infrastructure in the Swalley Irrigation District recently have been approved to move forward into construction, marking yet another major milestone in irrigation improvements that will benefit farmers, fish, and local communities in the Deschutes Basin.

The final watershed plan and environmental assessment for the Swalley project was officially authorized on March 12th by Matt Lohr, Chief of the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). The plan was developed in partnership with the Swalley Irrigation District, the Deschutes Basin Board of Control (DBBC), and the Farmers Conservation Alliance. 

The Swalley Irrigation District has been awarded $11.2 million in federal funds through the NRCS Watershed Protection and Flood Prevention Program. Swalley will use the funds to modernize and pipe 16.6 miles of their remaining open canals to improve water conservation, water delivery reliability, and public safety, as well as contribute to increases in streamflow in the middle Deschutes River. The project will occur in phases over seven years. 

“To date, Swalley has piped 45 percent of their water delivery system and has made the single largest conserved water transfer in the state, providing critical support to habitat along the middle Deschutes River,” said Jer Camarata, Swalley Irrigation District general manager. “The District also produces enough renewable energy to power about 250 homes and businesses near the Old Mill and Southern Crossing neighborhoods in Bend, thanks to a partnership with Energy Trust of Oregon.”

“Piping our remaining canals is just a continuation of many years of effort by many people and many organizations, and we expect that these remaining large projects will offer huge gains for the community at-large,” Camarata added. “New infrastructure is being engineered with a 250-1,000 year lifespan. Pioneers and the federal government invested in our future 130 years ago and this is no different except for now we have a larger community to take care of. These projects are being designed to be truly robust.”

The first anticipated project phase will be the Rogers Lateral Piping Project, which will install 16,045 feet of pipe and reduce water loss by up to 20 percent. The first phase is expected to be completed in early 2020. 

Funding for this phase comes from $1.3 million in federal funds and $646,000 in state funding from the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board (OWEB). OWEB works with communities across Oregon to help protect and restore healthy watersheds. 

“OWEB is pleased to participate in projects that improve irrigation infrastructure and make more water available in stream, while also demonstrating the effectiveness of collaborative efforts at the federal and state levels,” said OWEB Executive Director Meta Loftsgaarden.

The modernization of Swalley’s remaining open irrigation infrastructure will conserve up to 6,172 acre-feet of water annually for instream and agricultural use. The improvements will also reduce the irrigation district’s operation and maintenance costs, as well as reduce electricity costs and consumption from pumping. Swalley Irrigation District currently serves 668 patrons, which includes Bend Parks & Recreation District, Bend-LaPine Schools, the City of Bend, Avion Water, the US Forest Service, and many others.

After several years of planning and considering public input through the development of an environmental assessment, the NRCS and project sponsors determined the project will not cause significant local, regional or national impacts to the environment. 

This modernization project is a team effort between the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, The Deschutes Basin Board of Control, the Swalley Irrigation District, Farmers Conservation Alliance, and Energy Trust of Oregon to help Oregon irrigators conserve water, reduce energy consumption, increase irrigation delivery efficiency and renewable energy potential, improve public safety, and benefit instream habitat for threatened and endangered fish species. 

“We’re proud of the collective work we’ve accomplished together to help modernize Oregon’s irrigation infrastructure,” said Julie Davies O’Shea, Executive Director of Farmers Conservation Alliance. “It will take continued investments from the government, irrigation districts, nongovernmental organizations and the private sector to continue supporting this important work.” 

This project builds on a history of collaboration and water conservation in the Deschutes Basin. “We are proud of the partnerships we have had over the last twenty years with irrigation districts across central Oregon to improve the water delivery systems that sustain agriculture. Irrigation modernization is essential to water conservation and a key component to ensuring a healthy, restored Deschutes River Basin,” said Ron Nelson, Executive Director at Deschutes River Conservancy. “The additional resources that the Natural Resources Conservation Service, Farmers Conservation Alliance and Energy Trust of Oregon have brought into the basin will increase the pace and scale of these projects in districts across central Oregon, amplifying the benefits for agriculture and for our rivers.”


On December 3, 2018 the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) released a  Notice of Availability  of a Final Watershed Plan-Environmental Assessment (Plan-EA) and a Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) for the Swalley Irrigation District Modernization Project. After several years of planning and considering public input, NRCS and project sponsors have determined the project will not cause significant local, regional or national impacts to the environment. News release from NRCS.

On September 21, 2018 NRCS released a Draft Plan-EA. Comments were accepted from September 21, 2018 to October 24, 2018. A public meeting was held October 10, 2018 at Cascades Academy in Bend to discuss the Draft Plan-EA and accept public comments. Comments were used to develop the Final Plan-EA and a response to each comment is provided in Appendix A of the Final Plan-EA.

The FONSI, Final Plan-EA, and other supporting planning documents are available below.

For further information please contact: 

Farmers Conservation Alliance


History and Vision

Since 1899, Swalley Irrigation District (Swalley) has been a progressive, responsible steward to one of our most precious natural resources, water.

Swalley provides water to approximately 4,333 acres in and around the City of Bend. The District’s mission is to support ecologically, socially, and economically sustainable agriculture, recreation, industry, and lifestyles through providing renewable energy and irrigation service for the common good. The District's contemporary primary objectives are to continually modernize and protect its infrastructure and water rights in the face of an urbanizing environment such that water is able to be managed in the most efficient and sustainable manner possible during the next 100+ years.

Swalley holds the oldest, most senior water rights on the Deschutes River. Despite being one of Oregon's smaller irrigation districts, Swalley has made some of the largest contributions back to the river with conserved water. Over one third of the Swalley water right has been permanently dedicated back instream as a result of piping projects and modernization. 

The proposed project will modernize the remainder of Swalley’s Main Canal and laterals, improving water conservation, water delivery reliability, and public safety. The project will improve water quality and stream habitat in the upper Deschutes Basin while improving the economic sustainability of agriculture in the Deschutes Basin.

Learn more about Swalley Irrigation District at swalley.com



Local Government

  • Bend Park and Recreation District
  • City of Bend
  • Deschutes County


  • Burns Paiute Tribe
  • Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs


  • Farmers and ranchers who receive their irrigation water through the sponsoring irrigation districts 
  • Private landowners surrounding the open canals and irrigation infrastructure operated by those districts

Federal and State Agencies

  • Business Oregon
  • National Marine Fisheries Service
  • Oregon Department of Agriculture 
  • Oregon Department of Environmental Quality
  • Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife
  • Oregon Department of State Lands
  • Oregon Governor's Office
  • Oregon State Historic Preservation Office
  • Oregon Water Resources Department
  • Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board
  • U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
  • U.S. Bureau of Land Management
  • U.S. Bureau of Reclamation
  • U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
  • U.S. Forest Service, Deschutes National Forest

Other Organizations

  • Central Oregon Land Watch
  • Coalition for the Deschutes
  • Deschutes River Conservancy
  • Trout Unlimited
  • Upper Deschutes Watershed Council
  • Water Watch of Oregon

Past Meetings

Public Meeting

Wednesday October 10, 2018

6:30 – 8:00 PM

Cascades Academy 

19860 Tumalo Reservoir Road 

Bend, Oregon

Comments were accepted from September 21, 2018 to October 24, 2018.

During the comment period, comments could be submitted in the following ways:

1) At the public meeting

2) Email swalleycomments@gmail.com

3) By online form

4) Mail to: 

Farmers Conservation Alliance

Swalley Watershed Plan

102 State St

Hood River, OR 97031

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.

Public Scoping Meeting

July 6, 2017

6:30 - 7:30 PM

Tumalo Community Church

64671 Bruce Avenue

Bend, Oregon

Comments were accepted during the public scoping period from July 6, 2017 to July 24, 2017.