USDA announces new funding for Owyhee Irrigation District as Biden visits Oregon

A visitor to Lake Owyhee looks over the water in June 2021. The Owyhee Irrigation District is in line to receive federal money to help it complete infrastructure upgrades. (The Enterprise/FILE).

NYSSA – The Owyhee Irrigation District will receive a big boost from the federal government to help revamp its water delivery system, the the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced Thursday.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in an announcement that more than $2 million total is being awarded to three water districts in Oregon to modernize infrastructure.

The money for Oregon is part of a larger, $420 million subsidy slated for 132 projects in 31 states flowing from President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.

The news came as President Biden was expected in Oregon Thursday to talk about the benefits of the infrastructure legislation. He was scheduled to appear in Portland Thursday afternoon.

The Owyhee Irrigation District isn’t sure how much money it will receive yet, said manager Clancy Flynn. Flynn said the federal cash will be used to replace earthen canals and dikes with piping as part of the agency’s system improvement plan.

“We have a lot of stuff that hasn’t been piped,” said Flynn.

Switching from earthen canals to pipes saves money, time and, most of all, water, said Flynn.

“Once you put something in a pipe you take away evaporation, seepage and vegetative losses. So, it costs you less water to get the water where it is going,” said Flynn.

Flynn said he also does not know when the district will see the money.

“But any money is a good amount,” he said.

Flynn said the district faces a hefty price tag – at least $2 billion – to complete all of the improvements needed .

The district is part of the Owyhee Project, an ambitious, Depression-era public works venture designed to furnish water to more than 160,000 acres of land across Malheur County. The cornerstone of the project is the Owyhee Dam, a 400-foot concrete barrier that can store nearly 1,200,000 acre-feet of water.

News tip? Contact reporter Pat Caldwell at [email protected]

Previous coverage:

As western drought lingers, low reservoir levels locally may mean tough planting and growing season ahead

Flynn steps into top slot at Owyhee Irrigation District

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