C2 Ranch switching to Sprinklers

2 Ranch foreman Dave Picanso is looking to the future and believes he sees sweeping changes in water policy in the state of Oregon. Picanso wanted to get ahead of possible legislation that might catch the C2 between the proverbial “rock and a hard place.”

Picanso came to the C2 Ranch, about 10 miles ease of Eagle Point, a few years ago from a place “where there wasn’t much water.”  He noted that quite a bit of the 10.02 CFS of flood irrigation water was running back into North Fork Little Butte Creek carrying solid particles and increasing water temperatures.  He approached Little Butte Creek Watershed who then contacted Jackson Soil and Water Conservation District to help find a solution.

JSWCD did measurements and found that approximately 70 percent of the water flooded across the ranch’s 2,000 acres of irrigated lands flowed back to the creek.  According to Bob Jones of the Medford Water Commission, that runoff water increased temperatures, carried suspended particles to the creek and caused erosion on lands owned by C2 Ranch.

K-Line sprinklers on the C2

Engineers from JSWCD and NRCS went to work to design a system that would replace flooding with sprinkler irrigation.  The process took considerable time because of several factors.  Electricity needed for pumping is confined to certain portions of the ranch and uneven terrain nearly eliminated gravity fed sprinklers.

Another major factor was the cost of a sprinkler system. Attempting to place sprinklers on 2,000 acres was prohibitive both for cost and availability of power close enough for pumping stations.

Planning for the project began in the fall of 2007 and the first phase was completed in 2011.  Seven phases will be required to completely convert to sprinkler irrigation and this will cover a span of several years.

Funding , as always, created a problem on the part of the landowner, until grants came through that helped pay for the project.  OWEB, DEQ, Oregon Wildlife Heritage Foundation, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, the Medford Water Commission and JSWCD participated in the funding and planning portion of the project, while the landowner contributed labor and equipment.

Dave Picanso is well pleased with the results of the first phase of the project.  He says that having installed the K-line system makes changes much more rapid, thereby saving labor costs.  In addition, the K-line system is not affected by uneven terrain on this 125 acre portion of the ranch. This allows for better coverage of irrigation. When asked if the new system saved water, Picanso wasn’t positive, because the rotation changed from a 19 to a 13-day.  It has changed run-off, though and stream clarity in Little Butte Creek

The majority of irrigation water delivery in the Rogue Valley is by the flooding method.  Eagle Point Irrigation District is 100 percent flood irrigation and Talent Irrigation District delivers approximately 40 percent of their water through ditch systems.  Picanso believes that it won’t be long before all will be required to irrigate by sprinklers.  Some irrigators have reported as much as 75 percent savings in water usage.

Bob Jones of the Medford Water Commission says that his organization has a record of contributing to such projects for a special reason.  Water from Little Butte Creek dumps into the Rogue River just about one mile upstream from the Duff Treatment plant.  Water from the creek does not immediately mix with river water, so the more pure the water entering the River, the less costly the treatment at the plant.  That water is then distributed to a large portion of the valley, from Eagle Point to Talent.

The entire project will take several years to complete, depending on several factors.  For now, Picanso says that 125-acre portion of the irrigated lands is operating at peak performance producing hay and pasture for the ranch.

JSWCD District Manager Randy White Highly praised Senior Planner, Angie Boudro, for her efforts in seeing this project through to completion.  “Without her tireless work the project would never have gotten off the ground.”

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