Newsletter Spring 2010

Water Supply Information

The District is entering this irrigation season with less water supply than the last four years.

The reservoir capacities as of April 14, 2010 are as follows:
Howard Prairie 39,400 acre feet or 65%
Hyatt Lake 12,200 acre feet or 75%
Emigrant Lake 31,000 acre feet or 79%

We began setting up the system to run water on April 5th and began flushing the canals the week of April 12th. The water in the system will be increased as the demand increases.

Even though we should have an adequate water supply, it is critical to use water efficiently and conserve as much as possible. Water that is conserved this irrigation season is carried over to the next irrigation season. Since we never know how much precipitation will be received next winter, we need to be thinking ahead and do all we can to help ourselves out for the 2011 irrigation season. The Ditch Riders have been directed to be watchful of any run off or wasting of water.

If you are interested in tracking the reservoir elevations, you can do so all year long at the Bureau of Reclamation’s website at roguetea.html. The reservoir elevations are updated daily.

New Ditch Rider Assignments

The District has experienced a reassignment of one employee and the hiring of another. As you know, Roger retired, but he will be in for a short period of time this Spring to train his replacement on the Ashland Canal.

In addition, Sam Camp has moved into the position of Crew Leader and will not be riding ditch this season. Sam will be replaced on the lower East Canal by Tracy who has been working for the District on the maintenance crew.

The Ditch Rider assignments this year will be as follows:

Ashland Canal: Mark
East Canal (Upper Portion): Robert
East Canal (Lower Portion): Tracy
Talent Canal: Bob
West Canal: Steven

During the irrigation season, the District office is open to receive water orders from 7:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday. All water orders need to be placed by calling the District office at 541-535-1529.

The Ditch Riders are provided with cell phones for their use in conducting their daily work. It is the District’s policy not to give out the Ditch Rider’s cell phone number. If your Ditch Rider chose to give you his cell phone number last year, please remember that you may have a new Ditch Rider with a new phone number this year.

The District asks for your patience and cooperation while the two new Ditch Riders learn their rides.

Last fall the District purchased a new telephone system which has voicemail, so we will no longer be using a stand alone answering machine. Please use the District’s phone number 541-535-1529 to leave water orders or messages after hours. The messages are checked regularly on Saturdays and Sundays by the Ditch Riders who are on call. The Ditch Riders frequently rotate on-call weekends.

There should not be any more problems of calling the office after hours and getting a busy signal. The new telephone system will answer up to five incoming calls.

For emergencies during nonbusiness hours, the phone number to call is still 541- 770-0315. The emergency answering service will contact the District’s on-call person only if the situation constitutes an emergency.

An emergency is a situation where property damage is happening or is imminent.

The emergency answering service will not contact the on-call person for water orders or for lack of water.


If conditions do not change, the District could experience some shortages. Even though we had an adequate carryover, we still need help from natural stream flow early in the season to extend the storage supply. At this point in time, it looks like there will be limited stream flow to utilize prior to drawing on storage water.

The District will adhere to a strict 2 week rotation schedule unless you can show the District that you are not exceeding a 3 inch irrigation depth in the 2 week period.

Reservoir levels, current snow pack levels and stream flow forecasts are somewhat better, but very comparable to the 2001 and 2005 irrigation seasons in which the District implemented these same regulations and was able to complete the irrigation season.

Runoff or waste will bring District enforcement up to, and including, shutting your water off until your next regular rotation.

Once you start your irrigation you must continue your irrigation until complete. Pumping at night and shutting off during the day or vice versa will not be allowed. This will allow the District to maintain a more even and reliable flow with a minimum of waste at the ends of the canals.

Communicate with your neighbors and Ditch Riders. Good communication is what drives a cooperative system. Call the office 24 hours prior to wanting the water turned on and let your Ditch Rider (and neighbor, if applicable) know 12 hours before you are going to be finished with the water so the Ditch Rider can make necessary adjustments to his system, or keep the water in the reservoirs for release at a later date. Move your sprinklers more often. Although this is burdensome, it will save water. Small cuts to diversions and attention to runoff or waste can pay large dividends towards the end of the irrigation season.

If you have a flood or furrow system, keep the head ditches and laterals clean and free of debris so you can maintain a reliable flow. Do not try to flood certain portions of your land to an unreasonable depth to reach other portions. Try not to over graze pastures to keep adequate cover for moisture retention. Look at the District’s website at for updates and progression of the current water supply.

It is important that everyone be patient. There will be interruptions in service at times. There will be fluctuations in water flows as we do our best to conserve reservoir water. Regular mechanical demossing operations will continue throughout the season. As everyone has experienced in the last several years, the use of mechanical demossing does cause limited interruptions in service during the procedures.

The following are some general conservation measures that will help you conserve water:

Inspect your system before water starts to flow. Make sure the ditches are clean and free from weeds, sediment or other debris which can slow water velocity, affect delivery rate and increase evaporation. Consider lining ditches with concrete or plastic. This could avoid the 10-90 percent loss, which often occurs in ditches. Make sure ditch structures like headgates, drop structures and pipe inlets are strong and functional. A washed-out ditch structure could mean a lot of water lost. Make sure ditch banks are firm and not burrowed into by rodents. Rodent holes could cause leakage or failures. Make sure your pump is operating at peak efficiency. Adequate maintenance will improve efficiency, guard against water loss and avoid shutdowns.

On Sprinkler systems, make sure nozzles are not worn and leaky. Check pipe connections and valves to prevent leaks. Operate sprinklers at the recommended pressure. To figure out how much water to apply, use application rate, efficiency factor and time of application. Consider trickle systems for orchards, vineyards, etc. Operate at recommended design values and maintain the filter system.

Measure the amount of water applied to the field. It can be very helpful to purchase a moisture meter as this can indicate when and how much to irrigate. Consider alternate row irrigation for crops planted in furrows. But remember to alternate an “alternate” row in later irrigations. Consider shorter runs if you furrow irrigate. Match stream size and velocity to soil intake rate and capacity. Consider catching and reusing tail water by pumping it back to the head of the system or reusing elsewhere. Irrigate most crops when soil moisture reaches about 50 percent of capacity.

For more information, consider contacting a commercial nursery or garden supplier for plant watering requirements and recommendations. Check with the local Natural Resources Conservation Service office, Cooperative Extension Service office, etc. concerning your water conservation questions.


It is time for another WISE update. There are two items that are worth discussing. First, the prefeasibility study has been completed and the results are impressive. Second, and this may sound like a broken record, additional funding is needed to complete the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).

The goals of the WISE Project include improving irrigation reliability and feasibility while improving stream function at the same time. The modeled results of the prefeasibility study show that even in drought conditions, irrigation would be improved with more water available for on-farm use as well as greater end-ofseason carryover in the reservoirs. These improvements are in addition to returning the tributaries of Bear Creek to a more natural flow regime. This is all possible due to the large amount of water conserved by piping all of the canals and laterals. And if irrigators were to take advantage of the gravity pressure and switch to more efficient irrigation systems, the benefits to the districts would be even greater.

However, to realize these benefits, the EIS will need to be completed. The WISE Project Executive Committee has been working with multiple sources to try and raise the needed funds (over $2 million) that are needed. Our congressional delegation is working very closely with us to try and make this happen.

Finally, the boards of the three irrigation districts were given a presentation with all of the details of the project as it stands now. They will soon be making a decision as to how they wish to proceed with this project. Keep your eyes and ears open for future reports on this project. Please visit the WISE website at for the latest updates.


Those of you who own property along the main canals are well aware of the maintenance that has to take place on a regular basis. Each spring, before water is in each canal, we clean the silt and vegetation from within the canal prisms. We typically remove these materials and place them on the edge of the roadway to dry. At a later date, we then grade these materials back across the canal road or use them to level the road from damage caused by human and animal traffic during wet weather conditions. The District’s easements and right-ofways are for District access, operation and maintenance only.

No landowner or agent thereof shall plant, construct or erect, or cause to be planted, constructed or erected any tree, dwelling, outbuilding or other structure on or over any District easement. Any person violating this shall be required to remove such tree, dwelling or other structure at their own cost and within reasonable time to enable the District to perform necessary maintenance and repairs.

If, upon reasonable notice to the owner, such obstruction is not removed, the District shall make repairs as is necessary and shall incur no liability to the District for any damages sustained by such encroachments.

Endangered Species Act (ESA) Section 7 Consultation Update

The Bureau of Reclamation submitted the Supplemental Biological Assessment to the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) at the end of December 2009.

The Bureau and the irrigation districts are waiting for NOAA to issue a Biological Opinion which is expected any day. The hope is that the final Biological Opinion does not adversely impact the District’s ability to operate.

We will continue to keep you updated as more information becomes available.


The District has had a set policy for several years for the collection of delinquent water user accounts. The following is a reminder of that policy and procedure:

February 1, 2010 the District mailed out the annual charges.

April 1, 2010 the annual charges were due. Any charges remaining unpaid after this date are deemed delinquent. Interest is charged to delinquent accounts from the date the invoice was originally mailed. The interest rate, as set by State Statute, is 16% per annum.

October 6, 2010 the Board of Directors reviews the list of all delinquent accounts.

October 6, 2010 all delinquent accounts which owe twenty dollars ($20.00) or more are mailed a letter “Certified Mail, Return Receipt Requested” that a lien will be filed against their property if their account is not paid in full by 4:30 p.m. on Monday, November 15, 2010. The additional charge added to each account that has a lien filed on it is currently $170.00 per tax lot.

November 16, 2010 at 8:00 a.m. the “Notice of Lien Claim” is filed in the Official Records of Jackson County, Oregon.

January 15, 2011 any accounts owing fees from 2008 that have 3 liens filed against their property will have foreclosure proceedings initiated by the District’s attorney.

April 1, 2011 any properties who have failed to pay their 2010 irrigation charges in full, will not be allowed to have water delivered to their property until their delinquent 2010 and any prior year’s charges (if applicable) are paid in full.

Irrigation Payments

This is just a reminder that the District is not set up to accept debit or credit cards. The office receives inquiries each year from people wanting to pay their bills over the phone by debit or credit cards.

The District checked into getting set up to accept debit and credit cards, but because our use of the machines would be small, it was not cost effective.

Please remit your payments by check, money order or cash.

Bear Creek TMDL Implementation Plan Update

Irrigation districts are required to have a plan under the Clean Water Act, under the direction of the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), to help the local creeks meet state water quality standards in relation to bacteria, temperature, excessive aquatic weeds, excess sediments, etc. Since signing on to the Bear Creek TMDL Implementation Plan on August 4, 2009, the District has been documenting its efforts to reduce our impact on water quality in the Rogue Basin.

At the end of last irrigation season, the District ramped down the reservoirs and canals over a period of time to gradually reduce the impact of the irrigation water being shut off for the season. Likewise, at the start of the 2010 irrigation season, the District slowly ramped up the canals over a period of time to reduce sedimentation and its’ impact on natural streams and waterways.

Most of the water in the irrigation canals will eventually end up back in the natural streams.

The District can’t stress enough the importance of not using the canal as a trash disposal facility. Not only is it illegal, but also hazardous to discard glass, cans, trash, lawn clippings, tree trimmings, dead animal carcasses, etc. into the canals. Not only is it hazardous to the water supply but physical damage can result to people and property. Anything that can potentially clog the flow of the water in the canals will result in the water backing up and if left long enough, the water will flow over the canal banks, pipe openings, etc. and can cause damage to surrounding properties.

Board of Director Election Information

An election is held on the second Tuesday of each November to elect a board member whose term is expiring. The person receiving the highest number of votes at said election shall be elected, and hold office for three years from the first Tuesday in January next following the election, until a successor is elected and qualified. In order to qualify as a candidate to run for a board member position, the person must be a resident of Oregon and an owner or shareholder of a corporate owner of land within the District. Nominations for a board member position may be made by petition signed by at least 10 electors who are qualified to vote in the District. Nomination petitions may be picked up in the District office anytime after September 1st. If only one nomination petition is filed for the position, no election will be held.


Annual crop reports are required as part of the contract between the District and the United States Bureau of Reclamation. These reports are required to be taken each fall at the close of the irrigation season.

Crop reports are only required of land owners who own five or more acres of irrigated land. The reports include the acres and yield of each kind of crop.

When this information is requested by the District, please supply it at your earliest convenience. The information you supply to the District is tabulated with all of the crop reports in the District and the total irrigated acres and yields are supplied to the Bureau of Reclamation in totals for the whole District. At no time does anyone’s personal crop information leave the District office. Once the crop report information has been totaled, the individual crop reports are shredded by the District.


As in previous years, the canal headgates were locked with padlocks at the end of the 2009 irrigation season. This procedure was started because the District began receiving several phone calls and complaints of water moving through unregulated headgates during the winter months, causing problems for downstream landowners.

The ditch riders will be unlocking the headgates at the beginning of this irrigation season. If you find your padlock is not open when you are ready to irrigate, please call the office so that your ditch rider can be notified to remove the lock.


The District will continue to post our planned moss removal operations on our website at Please feel free to check the website weekly for the most up to date information. The moss growth is sporadic and sometimes sudden with warm weather conditions. We will do the best we can to keep you informed.

Please keep in mind that the moss removal operations will cause limited interruptions in the canal flow, so we ask that you be patient and work with the District during these times.


Each water user or owner of land within the District shall provide the District with their mailing address to which all official communications from the District are to be mailed. In case of change of address, the water user or owner of land should promptly notify the District of such change.

The District makes every effort to keep our address information current by updating our records with the Jackson County Assessor records at least twice a year. However, we are finding that many of the addresses on file at the County are not current so we encourage you to notify us directly of address changes.

Any billings mailed out that are returned by the post office will continue to accrue interest and applicable late fees. Address issues will not delay any lien or foreclosure process as outlined in the District’s collection policies.


Any person who owns and/or leases irrigated land totaling 40.1 acres or more in an irrigation district under contract with the Bureau of Reclamation must annually file Reclamation Reform Act (RRA) forms with the District office prior to receiving irrigation water.

It is important to remember that if you have a combined total of 4.1 acres in multiple districts, for example, 25 acres in Talent Irrigation District, 12 acres in Medford Irrigation District and 3.1 acres in Rogue River Valley Irrigation District, you must have RRA forms on file in each of the three irrigation districts prior to receiving irrigation water.

We can not express enough the importance of having the appropriate forms on file in a timely manner. If your landholdings change at all during the irrigation season, please contact the District office immediately to update the RRA forms you have on file.

As discussed in our Fall 2009 Newsletter, the most common error occurs when a landowner puts their property into a trust and does not file new RRA forms with the District prior to receiving irrigation water. We are still discovering landowners who have put their property into a trust a few years ago and are still not filing their RRA forms to reflect the trust. This is a real problem that will end up costing the landowner Administrative Fees from the Bureau of Reclamation. The fines will be retroactive to the date that the trust was established. The RRA also requires that the landowner supply the Bureau of Reclamation with a copy of the trust for their review. The landowner can either supply the District with a copy of the trust to be forwarded to the Bureau, or send the trust directly to the Bureau of Reclamation office in Boise, Idaho.

The District makes every effort possible to help landowners with filling out the forms. However, the only source of information we have for landholdings is Jackson County’s records and we are finding that the County’s records are not always showing the correct land ownership of the properties. For example, the County may not show a piece of property as being owned in a trust, when in fact it is in a trust. This is why it is so important for the landowners to make sure the RRA forms are filled out correctly.

The District does all it can to help landowners comply with the RRA regulations, but it is ultimately the landowner’s responsibility to understand the law and make sure that the correct forms are filled out and on file.

If a landowner is assessed an Administrative Fee for forms violations, the Bureau of Reclamation sends the bill to the District and the District will in turn bill the landowner. Once the landowner pays the District, the District in turn pays the Bureau the amount paid by the landowner. The District is the middle man between the Bureau and the landowner. The District does not retain any of these Administrative Fees, they go directly to the Bureau. These type of Administrative Fees are in addition to the annual bills sent to you by the District.


The District has hired a new Ditch Rider on the Ashland Canal to take Roger’s place. The new persons name is Mark and Roger will be training him during the first part of the season.

Mark is a water user in the District and is looking forward to getting to know the Ashland Canal water users.

Please join us in welcoming Mark. Your patience is greatly appreciated while he learns the Ashland Canal System.


In the early 1900’s a group of citizens anxious to improve the water supply situation around Ashland and Talent organized the Talent Irrigation District. The District was officially formed on May 22, 1916. In 1917, bonds totaling $600,000 were issued to cover the cost of developing and improving the irrigation system.

The first section of the District to be completed in 1920 was the McDonald System. It consisted of water delivered from McDonald Creek via the McDonald Canal into Wagner Creek. The next section to be completed was the Frederick’s Lateral that would deliver water to some of the west side lands.

Construction began again in 1922 to build a portion of the Talent Lateral which received its’ water from Bear Creek and the building of Hyatt Lake. By 1924, portions of the East Canal, Ashland Canal and West Canal were completed. By this time 11,500 acres were being assessed for irrigation water.

The next major construction was Emigrant Lake Dam which began in 1924. Between 1919 and 1927, the District sold three bonds for a total of $1,235,000. When the Depression hit in the late 1920’s and early 1930’s the District faced bankruptcy. Farmers could not pay their taxes and the District could not meet its’ principal or interest payments to bondholders. In 1935, the District received assistance in the form of a loan from the Reconstruction Finance Corporation which helped reduce the District’s debts.

In 1956, the water users of the District voted to approve signing a contract with the Bureau of Reclamation for the rehabilitation and enlargement of the irrigation system. The estimated reimbursable cost for construction of the project was $20,582,000 of which $12,321,00 was allocated for irrigation. The balance was allocated for flood control, power generation, recreation and fish and wildlife facilities. Of the $12,321,000 allocated for irrigation, the District was required to reimburse the Bureau $5,810,000. To repay this contract, the District makes annual payments of just over $80,000 to the Bureau each December. This contract was an interest free loan that will be paid off in the year 2032.

The major construction on the Bureau contract was accomplished by 1960. This included the expansion of Emigrant Dam, the building of Howard Prairie Dam and Keene Creek Reservoir, along with associated collection canals, delivery canals and diversion dams. With these improvements, the District was able to bring more land under irrigation.

This also explains why the irrigation bills are designated as “old” land or “new” land. The “old” land designation is given to those lands that were in the District prior to the signing of the Bureau contract to enlarge the system. The “new” land designation is given to lands that came into the District after the signing of the Bureau contract.

Upon completion of construction, the District has continually worked to maintain and improve the irrigation system. The District currently irrigates approximately 16,300 acres.

For a more detailed District history, please visit our website at

Who is OWRC and How Does Our District Benefit from this Membership?

Our District is a member of the Oregon Water Resources Congress (OWRC),which is a non profit trade association that represents irrigation districts, improvement districts and other agricultural water suppliers in Oregon. OWRC’s mission is to promote the protection and use of water rights and the wise stewardship of water resources, and has been serving districts since 1912. OWRC benefits districts and their water users by advocating at the state and federal level on behalf of irrigated agriculture and by providing diverse, high quality educational programs.


OWRC has well established state and federal legislative programs with lobbyists in Salem and Washington DC that ensure districts are informed about and actively engaged in funding opportunities, regulatory changes, and other state and federal issues that concern districts and their water users. Some of OWRC’s successes and ongoing activities at the state and federal level include:
• Support legislation that provides immunity from injury claims by parties using district facilities for recreation or access to other recreational opportunities when those facilities are not intended for or promoted for recreational use.
• Supported passage and reauthorization of Fisheries Restoration and Irrigation Mitigation Act (FRIMA) – a federal cost-share grant program to provide funding for fish screens and fish passage to districts.
• Continue to oppose efforts to extend Federal jurisdiction over canals and other waters in the state such as proposed amendments to the Clean Water Act.
• Work with the National Water Resources Association on the Army Corps of Engineers guidance to limit their jurisdiction over canals.
• Comment on administrative rules and proposals that could negatively impact district operations.
• Maintain close working relationship with Bureau of Reclamation staff at the Pacific Northwest Regional Office and the local field offices.

Education and Information

OWRC provides a variety of invaluable training and networking opportunities for district managers, staff and board members. These events provide updated information about new funding sources, laws and regulations that apply to districts, practical information and best management practices that improve district operations and management, and a variety of networking opportunities.
• Host workshops for district board of directors, operations and maintenance staff and district managers on topics including small hydroelectric systems, Clean Water Act compliance, agricultural water management and conservation planning, protecting easements and more.
• Give advice on issues that now drive or may drive future district operations, such as Endangered Species Act, Clean Water Act and more.

OWRC also keeps districts informed about trainings, legislative developments, or other issues of importance through daily and weekly email updates, bi-annual newsletters and the OWRC website.

If you want to know more about the Oregon Water Resources Congress and the numerous benefits the association provides to irrigated agriculture, visit:


With the irrigation season upon us, the District is constantly concerned with the safety of the general public and wants to remind everyone of the dangers posed by open irrigation canals. The canals contain slippery moss, sharp rocks, glass and barbed wire. There are a lot of hidden underwater dangers such as turbulence and suction strong enough to rip off a lifejacket!

Some driveway crossings have a trash rack to catch debris as it floats in the water. The water pressure at these crossings is higher, causing even more danger in these areas.

Kids building dams in canals or ditches for fun can cause extensive damage that requires expensive repairs. Please communicate to your friends and family that it is not only against the law to be in the irrigation canals, but how dangerous ditches and canals can be. Please call the District office immediately if you see someone swimming or bathing in the canals.

The Bureau of Reclamation, Oregon Water Resources Congress, Idaho Water Users Association and the Washington State Water Resource Association have published a coloring book entitled “Otto Otter For Safe Canals”. The District still has a small supply of the coloring books on hand if you would like to stop by the office and pick some up. The books are written in English and Spanish.

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