3/15/2016 1:05:00 PM Irrigation manager to discuss Whychus Creek
By Craig Eisenbeis
"I think the Three Sisters Irrigation District work represents a fascinating story," says Bjarne Holm, coordinator of the Sisters Trails Alliance's (STA) ongoing lecture series in Sisters.
Next week, Marc Thalacker, manager of the Three Sisters Irrigation District (TSID) will give an overview of his organization's continuing modernization of their irrigation system and their role, with other partners, in the restoration of Whychus Creek.
Over the years, the health of Whychus Creek has been a major concern in Sisters Country. In the not-too-distant past, water use from the creek sometimes exceeded the stream's entire water flow, causing the creek to run completely dry in some areas. Recent years, however, have seen a concerted effort to restore a healthy stream-flow throughout the drainage system. The cooperation among a multitude of private organizations and public agencies has become a successful model for stream and habitat restoration.
Thalacker has been the Manager of TSID since 1997 and has overseen multiple projects designed to enhance the irrigation water delivery system in the Sisters area. Eighty percent of TSID's open irrigation canals have been converted to closed piping, greatly reducing water loss within the system. As a result, and in partnership with other organizations and agencies, TSID has played a significant role in returning a healthy water-flow and improving the water quality and restoration of Whychus Creek and its riparian habitat.
As an additional innovation, TSID now uses its irrigation water-flow to power a 700kw hydroelectric plant; and their next project involves piping another six miles of canal that will power a second hydroelectric project. TSID sees this production of clean and renewable energy from an existing resource as yet another milestone in meeting the region's future needs.
Holm explained how TSID came to his attention.
"My wife and I had been hiking in areas of the Whychus Creek drainage upstream from the city of Sisters that had recently been rehabilitated, when we saw how part of the creek-flow was being diverted for irrigation.
"We saw the path the piped irrigation water made as it flowed to the east...Where the piped water crossed Highway 20 we decided to take a closer look. We found the headquarters buildings for the Three Sisters Irrigation District, and we introduced ourselves. To our pleasant surprise we were driven around and offered a fully guided tour of the complex, including the newly installed hydroelectric turbine."
Holm was very impressed with what he saw. "What an incredible effort of cooperation we thought... It is remarkable how irrigation for farming and ranching in Sisters Country has been cooperatively assured while protecting and enhancing our natural environment. This cooperation between different user groups in our local community is particularly impressive."
As a result of his visit to TSID, Holm asked Thalacker if he would agree to give a presentation to the public as part of the Sisters Trails Alliance speaker series. Thalacker readily agreed, and the program will take place next week, Thursday, March 24, in the Sisters Camp Sherman Fire Station Community Hall in downtown Sisters at 355 S. Elm St. Doors will open at 6 p.m., and the formal program will begin at 7 p.m. The program is free and open to the public. Snacks and refreshments will be provided.