Columbia Basin Fish and Wildlife Program Columbia Basin Fish and Wildlife Program
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Project Summary

Project 2007-220-00 - Water and Economic Optimization Project to Restore Streamflow in Fifteenmile Creek in the Fifteenmile Subbasin
Project Number:
Water and Economic Optimization Project to Restore Streamflow in Fifteenmile Creek in the Fifteenmile Subbasin
As irigated agriculture adopts a new management paradigm based on economic objecdtives--the maximization of net benefit--rather than maximizing biological yields. Water optimization is a departure from current conventional irrigation practices.
Proponent Orgs:
Wy'East Resource Conservation and Development Area Council (Non-Profit)
Starting FY:
Ending FY:
Province Subbasin %
Columbia Gorge Fifteenmile 100.00%
Focal Species:
Species Benefit:
Anadromous: 100.0%   Resident: 0.0%   Wildlife: 0.0%
BiOp Association:

No photos have been uploaded yet for this Project.

The table content is updated frequently and thus contains more recent information than what was in the original proposal reviewed by ISRP and Council.

Review: FY07-09 Solicitation Review

Council Recommendation

Assessment Number: 2007-220-00-NPCC-20090924
Project: 2007-220-00 - Water and Economic Optimization Project to Restore Streamflow in Fifteenmile Creek in the Fifteenmile Subbasin
Review: FY07-09 Solicitation Review
Approved Date: 10/23/2006
Recommendation: Do Not Fund

Independent Scientific Review Panel Assessment

Assessment Number: 2007-220-00-ISRP-20060831
Project: 2007-220-00 - Water and Economic Optimization Project to Restore Streamflow in Fifteenmile Creek in the Fifteenmile Subbasin
Review: FY07-09 Solicitation Review
Completed Date: 8/31/2006
Final Round ISRP Date: None
Final Round ISRP Rating: Meets Scientific Review Criteria (Qualified)
Final Round ISRP Comment:
The ISRP believes this proposal is fundable but project sponsors should consider the following points, which may improve the quality of the project:

In many respects, this is a comprehensive proposal with high potential for lasting benefits, even under climate change conditions. Landowners in the Fifteenmile subbasin seem to be willing to try new conservation measures without waiting for additional regulations. If the agricultural economists can help them reduce water use without harming their crops, this project will be worthwhile. A literature review on similar approaches and model verification would add to the proposal.

This is essentially a "proof of concept" proposal, which seeks to demonstrate that irrigation withdrawals can be reduced by about 10-20% (up to 7 cfs) by using improved technology to optimize water use and reduce or eliminate wastage. The problem is reasonably well defined and the spatial context, i.e., priority reaches for flow increases, is provided (Fig. 3). The concept of irrigation efficiency is adequately explained, but there was no estimate of the increase in steelhead capacity (using, say, the scenario builder feature of EDT) that would result from the best-case outcome.

Overall, this is a very promising pilot study that could have application basinwide for saving water for instream uses. Although the project is certainly aware of the Subbasin Plan strategy to secure instream water rights, an important missing piece from the proposal is that the water saved would remain instream and that this additional water be meaningful. The ISRP's "fundable" recommendation is qualified with the condition that the project can address the following concerns: How far downstream on the creek would the saved water accrue? It appears in the lower third of watershed. Is this the key area for steelhead rearing? Or is the water really needed in the upper watershed? The project should meet the criteria used to select and prioritize projects by the Fish and Wildlife Program's Water Transaction project run by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, project 200201301.

In addition, the ISRP qualifies its recommendation because the proposal's monitoring and evaluation plan should be improved. Although this proposal is best viewed as a pilot study, the proposal does not include monitoring for whether the estimates of saved water are achieved. Monitoring in the proposal appears to be limited to the 500-acre test site to soil moisture and weather.

The proposal relates the project need to provisions in the Fifteenmile subbasin plan, the Council's Fish and Wildlife Program, and the BiOp.

Currently, a project very similar to the one proposed is ongoing in the Ochoco Irrigation District in the Upper Crooked River Watershed near Prineville Oregon. Funding for this project comes from Natural Resources Conservation Service, Oregon Trout, and Altria Foundation. The project name is Water and Economic Optimization Project. However, the proposal could have provided a more complete description of its relationship to other Fifteenmile Creek steelhead habitat restoration efforts, of which there are many.

A number of the objectives were administrative and/or process-oriented, and were related to planning and improving information transfer to the local farmers. From a scientific standpoint, the more interesting objectives had to do with deploying an array of environmental sensors that can be networked through telemetry to an irrigation optimization model that will allow modification of water withdrawal practices, increasing in-stream flows. These latter objectives have measurable outcomes, although the timelines are a little vague.

The water optimization modeling effort - the heart of this project - is still in a somewhat developmental stage at Oregon State University, but it appears to be based on the latest economic principles. Where would the initial pilot systems be located within the Fifteenmile subbasin (apparently the exact sites haven't been selected yet)?

The facilities, equipment, and personnel appear to be very well qualified, especially the two agricultural economists from OSU.

Information transfer was primarily directed at providing near real-time information to farmers, and periodic reports to BPA and NRCS. However, given the importance of pilot-scale projects like this to the basin as a whole, the investigators should consider peer-reviewed publications and other media that can reach a broader segment of the agricultural community.

The proposal did not attempt to provide a quantitative estimate of steelhead productivity improvements, but there is a very high likelihood that increasing streamflow by 5-7 cfs will be beneficial, although there is a question over the benefits being limited to the bottom third of the watershed. Non-focal species are likely to benefit from increased in-stream flows, if they can be achieved as predicted.

While this approach remains economically attractive to the farmer, it should continue to provide the benefits described. Furthermore, it would be relatively easy to subsidize the costs to the extent necessary, while continuing to monitor the tangible benefits. There is concern over the degree of sophistication implied, both in the instrumentation and technical expertise required - even allowing for a more "black box" operational approach in the longer term.
Documentation Links:

Legal Assessment (In-Lieu)

Assessment Number: 2007-220-00-INLIEU-20090521
Project Number: 2007-220-00
Review: FY07-09 Solicitation Review
Completed Date: 10/6/2006
In Lieu Rating: No Problems Exist
Cost Share Rating: None
Comment: Testing new approach to withdrawals for irrigation (assuming no order, consent decree etc requiring increased flows here).

Capital Assessment

Assessment Number: 2007-220-00-CAPITAL-20090618
Project Number: 2007-220-00
Review: FY07-09 Solicitation Review
Completed Date: 2/27/2007
Capital Rating: Does Not Qualify for Capital Funding
Capital Asset Category: None
Comment: None

Project Relationships: None