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Wasco County - Information for Partners and Participants

Wasco County - Information for Partners and Participants

Direct seeding wheat, cherries and Mt. Hood in the background. Photo courtesy of Dusty Eddy, Wasco County SWCD








Direct seeding wheat, cherries and Mt. Hood in the background. Photo courtesy of Dusty Eddy, Wasco County SWCD.

Wasco County has an area of 2,392 square miles, or 1.5 million acres of which 902,669 acres or 59% of the county is privately owned and 387,113 acres are Tribal lands or 25% of the county. Public land makes up 13% with the USDA Forest Service managing 177,888 acres of land or 12% of the county. The rest of the public land is managed by USDI Bureau of Land Management, United States Corps of Engineers, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife and Bonneville Power Administration. There are about 236,435 ac of crop land with about 24,311 acres irrigated. The dryland cropland is mostly devoted to small grains. Much of the irrigated land is used to produce high value crops including cherries, apples, peaches, blueberries and grapes. Private forestland makes up about 20,000 acres and the remainder of the private acres are dryland cropland and rangeland. Wasco County ranks 13th for gross farm and ranch sales in Oregon at 89.7 million dollars. Wasco county ranks 5th for wheat production in Oregon.

NRCS Local Conservation Activities and Strategies

The priority major resource concerns identified by the local conservation partnership include:

  • Soil Erosion
  • Water Quantity and Water Quality
  • Rangeland Health
  • Forestland Health

Existing Conservation Implementation Strategies (CIS) geared towards improving irrigated cropland are being utilized. Crop producers and citizens of the county are willing to participate in water quantity and quality effort as water conservation and adequate water quality and quantity is essential to everyone. Success will be measured by feedback from the local irrigation districts, water quality assessments, watershed councils and the number of irrigation systems updated for efficiency.

Landowners countywide are willing to participate in this rangeland health effort as invasive species diminish the grazing capability, decrease stream quality, and destroy wildlife habitat. Success will be measured by anecdotal evidence from the landowner and the number of applied acres of practices expected to improve rangeland health. An existing CIS is in place for treatment of Juniper in the Antelope Creek Watershed

Work is underway to develop a CIS for forestland Health. Forestland owners countywide are willing to participate in an effort to improve forestland health as the decreased forest health conditions create a high risk of catastrophic wildfires. Success will be measured by the number of applied acres of practices expected to improve forest health and feedback from landowners, Oregon Department of Forestry, and NRCS foresters.

Conservation Implementation Strategy


NRCS Programs Available

Financial assistance available to Oregon landowners under Regional Conservation Partnership Program, applications due June 19

....Read the News Release....

Funding available to help Oregon landowners mitigate effects of drought
Submit applications to NRCS by June 26

....Read the News Release....

Additional Conservation Resources Available

Conservation agencies in the region are very cooperative and routinely work together with private landowners to accomplish resource enhancement projects. The following agencies provide assistance in planning, funding or implementing conservation and restoration projects:

  • Wasco County Soil and Water Conservation District
  • Oregon State University-County Extension Service
  • Oregon Department of Agriculture
  • Oregon Department of Forestry
  • Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife
  • Bureau of Land Management
  • WyEast RC&D
  • Northern Wasco County PUD
  • Wasco Electric Coop
  • Bonneville Power Association

Local Work Group Updates

Seven Neighborhood meetings were held during in February 2012 throughout the county. At these meetings, the producers were given an opportunity to comment on existing and future treatment of resource concerns. The result of this input supports the SWCD prioritization of resource concerns. Please refer to for the most up to date list of priority resource concerns.

The Wasco County Local Work Group meets to discuss natural resource priorities and provide input to NRCS on conservation programs.  If you are interested in participating, please contact the NRCS District Conservationist listed below.

For meeting information, please click here.

Success Stories


Soil Health = Profitability

For Oregon cherry orchardist Mike Omeg, the sweetest thing about his operation isn’t just the cherries -- it’s increased profits through investing in the health of his soil.

“Soil health means continued profitability in an ever more competitive global marketplace for my product,” said Omeg, a fifth generation owner of the 350-acre Omeg Family Orchard in The Dalles, Oregon. “It makes sense to farmers. A better soil makes us more money.”

Without irrigation, it’s hard to imagine growing a cash crop in an environment that receives less than 12 inches of precipitation annually. Welcome to the world of grain farmers in central and eastern Oregon.  More (HTML...)

Key Words:  Soil Health, No-till, EQIP, Deschutes Basin

Focus on soil health drives innovation, moisture preservation for Oregon farmer

Without irrigation, it’s hard to imagine growing a cash crop in an environment that receives less than 12 inches of precipitation annually. Welcome to the world of grain farmers in central and eastern Oregon.

David Brewer is one of those farmers. But rather than looking to the sky for help, he’s looking to the soil—improving its health in an effort to retain and preserve every drop of precipitation that happens to fall on his farm. More (HTML...)

Key Words:  CIG, Soil Health, Deschutes Basin
Wheat rancher Jim Olson

Protecting the Fish: Partnership Works to Keep Water in Critical Streams

Dufur, Ore. – In the unusually hot summer of 2009, streams in Upper Fifteenmile Watershed began to dry up. As the water level fell and creek temperatures rose, fish began to die.  Recognizing the potential for an environmental crisis, landowners and natural resource technical advisors sprang into action to prevent a repeat of the ecological disaster. More (HTML...)

Key Words:  EQIP, water management, Deschutes Basin
Mike Omeg standing next to an owl box on his property.

Mike Omeg Builds on Family's Legacy of Conservation

Mike Omeg climbs up the tall ladder and quietly peers in the top of an owl box. The fifth generation farmer is trying to encourage barn owls to take up residence in the 50 nesting boxes Mike has built and installed around his cherry orchards. The owls are a low impact method to manage rodent damage: one family of barn owls is likely to consume 3,000 gophers each year. More (HTML)...

Key Words:AWEP, irrigation management, wildlife management, Deschutes Basin
Diego Leon standing in his orchard

Scientific Irrigation Scheduling (SIS) Saves Precious Water and Energy

A new technique in irrigation management is bringing impressive results to this fruit-growing region along the Columbia River in Central Oregon thanks to a program of USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) known as the Cooperative Conservation Partnership Initiative (CCPI). The program is helping farmers help the land through the formation of partnerships, including one with Bonneville Power Administration (BPA). Matching funds from BPA and other natural-resource partners have leveraged the impact of the USDA-NRCS program, and resulted in the installation of Scientific Irrigation Scheduling (SIS) on 3,100 acres in The Dalles area, which has saved precious water and energy. More (HTML)...

Key Words: CCPI, irrigation management, Deschutes Basin
Portrait of landowner Tim Dahle

Cooperative Conservation Produces Scientific Irrigation Scheduling for Irrigation Water Management

The Dalles, Oregon is the Sweet Cherry Capital of the World, and that crown for nectarous fruit is the result of not just suitable soils and a hot, dry climate, but an efficient irrigation system. Thanks to a partnership of local landowners, eight organizations and USDA-Natrual Resources Conservation Service’s (NRCS) Agricultural Water Enhancement Program (AWEP), intensive irrigation water management will meet water quality and supply challenges of the future and growers will produce even plumper fruit.  More (HTML)...

Key Words: AWEP, irrigation management, Deschutes Basin


Clickable Map of SNOTEL Sites


For Additional Assistance Contact

The Dalles Service Center
2325 River Road, #3
The Dalles, Oregon 97058

NRCS District Conservationist:  Beau Sorensen, (541) 298-8559 ext 111
Wasco County SWCD, (541) 296-6178 ext 3

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This photo illustrates the “three W’s” of Wasco Counties resource concerns: Weeds, Wildlife and Wild fire. Photo courtesy of Shilah Olson, Wasco County SWCD.
Newly planted cherries with micro-sprinkler irrigation and mulch. Photo courtesy of Dusty Eddy, Wasco County SWCD


Newly planted cherries with micro-sprinkler irrigation and mulch. Photo courtesy of Dusty Eddy, Wasco County SWCD.