The Cascade Mountains provide more than just a scenic backdrop for the people living in Central Oregon. They are at the same time a blessing and a curse. While the mountains block the rains from Central Oregon, they also accumulate a vast reservoir of snow. This snow melts during warmer months to swell the rivers, filling canals, irrigating semi-arid land.
A.M. Drake initiated the first water diversion company in Central Oregon, the Pilot Butte Development Company, that also platted and mapped Bend, Oregon. Prior to any water running, the company was sold to the Deschutes Irrigation & Power Company (D. I. & P.) the precursor of Central Oregon Irrigation Company.
“Free land in Oregon, in the richest grain, fruit and stock section in the world!” was D. I. & P.’s aggressive sales campaign, offering land to settlers for the cost of irrigation. 1904 marked the flow of irrigation water to the first 40 acres of land. By 1924, the local population had grown to 2,000 people with an impressive 28,500 acres under irrigation. Irrigation helped create the city of Bend and helped drive its growth and industrialization to its present levels.
Before any water was diverted from the Deschutes River, appropriations to divert had to be filed with the State of Oregon. The filing had to identify where the diversion would occur and how much water would be diverted. Today, those very same appropriations are still in force.
Water rights were assigned on a first-come, first-serve basis. But the ranch at the start of the canal must conserve and husband the use if there is to be any water for a ranch at the end of the canal. That same philosophy still holds sway today. Clean water is a resource to share and respect.
By 1907, the Central Oregon and Pilot Butte Canals had been constructed. In 1910, as a result of foreclosure and ensuing reorganization, the Central Oregon Irrigation Company was created. On December 17, 1917 the Central Oregon Irrigation Company was turned over to its users who organized the Central Oregon Irrigation District. The transition was not without rancor and was finally resolved by the courts on July 9, 1921.
The construction of canals and dams continued. 1912 saw the completion of the North Canal Dam and connection to the Pilot Butte Canal. To accommodate the need for increased industrial water flow, the Pilot Butte Canal was terminated just north of the town site. The Pilot Butte Canal diversion is a dam located immediately south of the Riverhouse Motel in Bend. The Central Oregon Canal diversion is at the south city limits of Bend.
The District employs patrolmen who oversee the delivery of irrigation water. These patrolmen serve a particular portion of the district, delivering water to users and taking daily water readings.
The Carey Act of August 18, 1894 initiated many of these irrigation projects by authorizing the federal government to contract with the states for land reclamation. The water rights established under the Carey Act were inchoate or temporary until the land was actually irrigated and producing crops. The State decided that as of June 30, 1950 sufficient time had passed to establish the rights as required by the Carey Act. As numerous claims had been made, both by the districts and private parties, it was not until 1958 that the courts finalized the various claims and rights to the Deschutes River water.
Throughout this time, various upgrades were necessary. Wooden flumes were replaced by steel pipes, and mechanical cleaners added to intake screens. In 1938 COID, Crook County Improvement (Lone Pine) District and the Arnold Irrigation District formed a cooperative effort with the federal government to construct a dam at Crane Prairie for winter water storage.
In 1989, after nearly ten years of work, COID completed the Siphon Power Project. This hydroelectric power plant can produce 5.5 megawatts of electricity, which is being sold to Pacific Power. This enables the District to further develop capital improvements to make the distribution system more efficient and upgrade the canal system to benefit the water users.
No new amounts of water are available. Surface water in Central Oregon is a finite resource. The only way additional water will become available to COID’s subscribers is through conservation.
The District is very much the product and tool of its subscribers. It provides municipal and industrial irrigation water to over 4,000 accounts and to the Cities of Bend and Redmond. Like any municipal corporation, COID exists solely to serve its constituents and relies on them for its well-being. COID is proud of its partnership in the development of Central Oregon. We all look forward to continued involvement in our future and as part of that we actively support the conservation of all our natural resources.