Projects to aid Walla Walla River flows completed

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TOUCHET — With the rushing waters of the Walla Walla River forming an appropriate backdrop, two projects to aid both fish and farmers were given a formal dedication Tuesday.

The ribbon-cutting event on the riverbank near Lowden marked the completion of nearly $7.6 million in construction projects that replaced miles of open ditches with water pipelines.

The new systems are expected to keep an annual average of nearly 10 million gallons of water a day in the river, water that previously was lost to seepage, evaporation and other inefficiencies, officials said.

“Many strong partnerships were forged to make this happen,” said Jeff Shulke, chairman of the Walla Walla County Conservation District, which spearheaded the pipeline projects. “Without everyone pulling together, these projects wouldn’t be happening.”

One of the projects involving the Gardena Farms Irrigation District replaced 2,800 feet of open canal with a 66-inch diameter pipeline in addition to miles of smaller-diameter pipelines serving farmers in the Touchet-Lowden area. The piping eliminated 7.3 miles of open canal and ditches.

The project also involved modifying or building 35 pumping stations that help irrigate 2,900 acres. Work on that $4.4 million project began in August with and the project was largely finished in late fall.

Funding for the Gardena Farms project was provided by the state Department of Ecology and Bonneville Power Administration with support from the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

The second project consolidated the diversion structure on the river serving the Bergevin-Williams and Old Lowden ditch systems. It took out two gravel dams in the river and replaced them with a new diversion structure equipped with a self-cleaning fish screen. The project also eliminated 10.5 miles of open canals and ditches by replacing them with pipelines.

Groundbreaking for that $3.14 million project was held in July. Construction was funded by grants from the Department of Ecology and Bonneville Power Administration with support from the Washington Conservation Commission, the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and the irrigators of the Bergevin-Williams and Old Lowden ditch systems.

Andy Porter can be reached at andyporter@wwub.com or 526-8318.

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