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Three Sisters Irrigation District Innovation (RCPP)


Year Awarded: FY 17
USDA Funding: $990,600
RCPP Funding Pool: Critical Conservation Area (Columbia River Basin)
Project Timeline: 5 years (2017 – 2022)
Location: Deschutes County, Oregon
Lead Partner: Three Sisters Irrigation District


Map of the Three Sisters Irrigation District Innovation RCPP project area in Deschutes County, Oregon.


Collaborating Partners:

  • Natural Resources Conservation Service
  • Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board
  • Oregon Department of Energy
  • Deschutes Soil and Water Conservation District
  • The Pelton Butte Fund
  • Upper Deschutes Watershed Council
  • Bonneville Environmental Foundation
  • Deschutes River Conservancy
  • Wy’East RC&D Council
  • Energy Trust of Oregon
  • Private farmers and ranchers
  • USDI Bureau of Reclamation

Project Summary:

This project will help mitigate drought, improve water quality/quantity, and improve fish habitat along Wychus Creek, a tributary of the Deschutes River. The project includes the completion of piping the Three Sisters Irrigation District’s Watson McKenzie Main Canal with two high density polyethylene (HDPE) side-by-side buried pipes, resulting in the conservation of 800 acre feet of annual canal seepage loss. The on-farm component of this project will encompass 61 projects, over 1,500 acres, in the Upper District. The program will allow farmers in the Upper District to pipe private laterals, thereby providing access to pressurized water from the District’s pipeline. Pressurized water will eliminate electrical pumps that use over 2.5 million kilowatt hours of electricity annually. A feasibility study will be conducted to determine the potential for 60 on-farm hydro net metering projects.

Conserving water and using irrigation water more efficiently will benefit a variety of fish species in the Deschutes Basin, including Summer Steelhead, Bull trout, Chinook salmon, Sockeye, and native Redband trout. Additionally, the District is partnering with the Upper Deschutes Watershed Council to eliminate the last unscreened diversion and fish passage barrier on Whychus Creek.

NRCS Financial Assistance Programs Used:

  • Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP)

Screening Questions

1. Does the project address irrigation water efficiency in the current project area and facilitate connection to the TSID pressurized mainline?   Or:

2. Does the project improve wildlife habitat in Whychus creek as identified in the RCPP proposal?   (yes = high, no = low priority)

Ranking Criteria

1. Will this application result in over 8 acre inches per acre of water conservation?

2. Irrigation Water Management will be applied at greater than the Basic level including use of Agrimet or equivalent for crop needs, soil moisture measurement and record keeping.

3. Will project convert from flood irrigation to sprinklers or drip?
4. Will project convert private open ditch to pipe?
5. Will project provide pressurized water to the farm to save pumping energy?
6. Will the project benefit wildlife in Whychus creek by eliminating passage barriers and/or restoring floodplain and channel habitat?

NRCS Conservation Practices:

  • Irrigation Pipeline
  • Structure for Water Control
  • Irrigation Sprinkler System
  • Irrigation Water Management
  • Critical Area Planting
  • Riparian Herbaceous Cover
  • Stream Habitat Improvement
  • Aquatic Organism Passage
  • Streambank Protection
  • Channel Stabilization

Points of Contact:

Mark Thalaker, Three Sisters Irrigation District
Phone: 541-419-5850

NRCS Local Contact, Deschutes County

Pivot irrigation in Deschutes County, Oregon.