Local projects to benefit fish, water users

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A 66-inch high density polyethylene steel reinforced pipe is delivered in one 48-foot-long section per truckload from Phoenix, Ariz.

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The pipes are installed and then fusion welded.

Conservation funding flooded into the Walla Walla Valley last summer from the Bonneville Power Administration, Bureau of Reclamation, Department of Ecology and the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation.

These funds were for capital projects including piping and barrier removal in the Walla Walla Valley. As a result, 10.4 cubic feet per second of water will not be diverted for irrigation from the Walla Walla River and will be placed into trust. These saved waters will greatly contribute to salmon, steelhead and bull trout recovery in this basin far into the future.

By contributing to the recovery of fish on the Endangered Species Act list we greatly reduce the threat of ESA enforcement action down the road.

These project funds are a direct result of many hours of grant writing by staff of the Walla Walla County Conservation District. These grants, administered by the district, have provided the means for the Bergevin-Williams/Old Lowden ditch groups, and the Gardena Farms Irrigation District #13 to replace inefficient earthen delivery canals and ditches with very efficient plastic delivery pipelines.

This will eliminate water losses due to evaporation, seepage and over-allocation as well as reduce maintenance costs associated with weed control, sedimentation, and canal failure (blow-outs).

These capital piping projects will assure all the water-right holders along these irrigation systems will receive the water they are entitled to by law. It is this water that helps produce the Walla Walla Sweet Onion, yellow and red onions, corn, beans, alfalfa seed and many other outstanding crops that bring this Valley its fame and fortune.

The conservation district is able to do all the design, engineering, contracts, project management and oversight of these projects.

These capital piping projects are a direct result of agreements between irrigators, state and federal agencies, Indian tribes and many other stakeholders, as well as the conservation district and its board of supervisors.

The following is a rundown on these new individual piping projects and what they will bring to the people, farms and future of this unique river basin.

GFID #13 2,800 ft. Upper Canal & North Lateral Piping Project. Replaced 7.3 miles of earthen ditch with buried plastic irrigation pipelines. There have been approximately 34,726 feet of delivery pipeline and almost 20,000 feet of lateral pipeline installed. Thirty-four pumping stations serving 2,900 acres have been built or modified. This project will place 5.95 cubic feet per second of water into trust.

The final cost has not been determined but it will be close to the engineer’s estimate of $4.56 million. The project will benefit Mid-Columbia steelhead, bull trout, and reintroduced Chinook salmon.

The funding partners were Bonneville Power Administration, Bureau of Reclamation, Department of Ecology and Gardena Farms Irrigation District #13.

BWOL Diversion Consolidation & Piping Project. Replaced 8.8 miles of earthen ditch with buried plastic irrigation pipelines. The system is served by a new consolidated irrigation diversion on the Walla Walla River that replaced the Bergevin-Williams gravel push-up dam and the Old Lowden push-up dam, both of which were potential barriers to fish migration and “take” hazards.

This project involved modification of 18 pump stations and 11 metering stations for flood outlets. It will serve 29 landowners and 1,840 acres, and 2,404 acre-feet of water will be placed into trust.

The final cost is near the engineer’s estimate of $3.4 million.

The funding partners were the Department of Ecology, the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation. and the Bergevin-Williams/Old Lowden ditch groups.

Blalock Irrigation District #4 Fish Screen Project. Located on Mill Creek, the intake for the Blalock Irrigation District’s diversion is adjacent to the city of Walla Walla’s Wastewater Treatment Facility. Capable of diverting up to 10 cfs, this diversion was the largest unscreened irrigation diversion on Mill Creek.

In cooperation with Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife, Washington State Conservation Commission and the Blalock landowners, Walla Walla County Conservation District began work on this project almost seven years ago. The structure design was completed by HDR and the screen constructed and installed by Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife’s Yakima Screen Shop.

This project cost $275,231.

Other smaller projects included:

Stiller Pond Shallow Aquifer Recharge: $36,892.

G & A Smith Farms Sediment Retention Demonstration: $11,890.

Mill Creek Bohemian Knotweed Removal Project: $38,000.

False Indigo Bush Eradication Project: $135,000

Numerous individual fish screens, irrigation withdrawal meters, and riparian forest buffer projects.

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