MEDFORD, Ore. – A project 10 years in the making is proposing major developments to Southern Oregon’s waterways. The Water for Irrigation, Streams and Economy Project – also known as WISE – is planning to improve overall water quality and management in the Rogue Valley.
The WISE Project is a plan supported by more than 30 groups in Oregon. Organizers are hoping this project will not only improve the water but wildlife and agriculture in Jackson County. The WISE Project see’s existing canals with high potential to improve and manage streams in the Bear Creek Valley. The plan is proposing to lay a pipe line from Emigrant Lake down to the Rogue River. These piping canals will be under gravity pressure.
“So that will allow the farmers and ranchers, irrigators to actually convert flood to sprinklers. So, they could more effectively put the water where they need it and we won’t have run off into the creek. Agriculture in this valley is like a $450 billion a year business and we want them to stay healthy,” explained WISE Project President Bob Jones.
Project planners said that pipe line could not only be accessible to turn on or off for agricultural use, but it will will also help streamline water flow improving quality of life for fish and even drinking water.
“By putting the pipe into the canals, we’ll save somewhere on the order of 30% of the water that they divert now,” Jones said. “And that water savings will make extra water available for the irrigators as well as in-stream use.”
The project is still in its beginning stages, but a grant is putting the project a step closer to a reality.
“We received a grant from the Oregon Resource Department to do a cost benefit analysis of our project and I think it was like a $243,000 grant to go ahead and do that,” Jones said.
The wise project will be in several phases taking about 10 to 15 years to fully complete, but a spokesman says once the cost benefit analysis is done in about 3 years they will be able to start construction. The total cost of the project is expected to be between $400 to 500 million.