Farmers Irrigation District strives to promote ecologically, socially, and economically
sustainable agriculture by providing energy and irrigation service for the common good
Putting Electric Vehicles to the Test:
Electric vehicles (EVs) are rapidly increasing in popularity. And for practical and economic reasons that go far beyond the absence of a tailpipe. For one, electric vehicles are proving to be less expensive to own than gas or diesel vehicles. Even before the recent increase in gas prices, in many parts of Oregon, it cost less to charge them with electricity than to fill a gas tank. EVs are also proving to have lower maintenance and repair costs over time. And now, the technology is expanding to more equipment that has been historically powered by gas. From leaf blowers and weed whackers to heavy equipment, there are more and more electric options available out there.
But are EV’s really suited to more rugged applications? This past year we partnered with Oregon Environmental Council (OEC) and Pacific Power to see if a small EV was a good fit for FID.
The project initially emerged from our conversations with Karen Lewotsky, OEC’s Director of Rural Partnerships, who was looking for ways to connect rural communities to practical, cost-effective, conservation opportunities. Having partnered in the past with irrigation districts, Karen knows how important districts like ours are to the rural and agricultural communities we serve. Putting EVs on the ground for district staff to use ensures that rural and agricultural folks will see them in action and be able to ask questions about them. Karen and OEC then applied for a grant from Pacific Power, which draws on funds made possible by Oregon’s Clean Fuels Program (more on this below). The grant allowed us (and two other districts) to purchase a Polaris Ranger EV UTV (Utility Task Vehicle) to see how it could work within our operations.
FID received a Ranger EV in the spring of 2022 and over the past six months we looked for opportunities to put it to work and compare it with the conventional vehicles already in our fleet. FID first put it to the test to plow late spring snow around the district office. “I was honestly quite skeptical,” said Les Perkins, FID General Manager, “But I was happily surprised and found it to be remarkable effective for its size and weight.”
Over the summer, the EV was put to work to inspect FID’s main canal and pipelines. This work was typically done with a small truck or a diesel side by side. The FID crew really liked the quiet nature of the EV and that there weren’t any exhaust fumes. Other major tasks for the EV included hauling tools and materials to jobs sites, often in the orchards, where a smaller vehicle is preferred to avoid damaging trees. Again, the size was perfect and the silent operation was a nice bonus.
Les added, “Overall, the vehicle is very useful, fun to operate, and saves time and money. So far, we haven’t had any real maintenance costs and there’s no cost for fuel consumption. The battery life is also quite a bit better than I expected. We took it on some fairly long drives and never even got close to draining the batteries. Charging was also quite easy, we just plugged it in every time we returned it to our yard. An added bonus is that we can charge it from hydro power we create right here at the district. After the experience this summer, I know that we will continue to increase our use of it and find new ways to incorporate it into our operations.”
A special thanks to OEC, the Clean Fuels Program, and Pacific Power.
The transition to EVs in rural and urban areas alike has been greatly aided by funds created by the Oregon Clean Fuels Program. In operation since 2016, the Clean Fuels Program creates a gradually declining limit on the amount of carbon in common fuels like gas and diesel and creates financial incentives for companies that outperform the program standards. One result of the program has been a steady stream of grant funding dedicated to transitioning Oregon to more sustainable energy. Other beneficiaries of this program include school districts and community nonprofits like Meals on Wheels People.
North Greenpoint Pipe Replacement:
FID diverts water from North Greenpoint Creek, Deadpoint Creek, and the North and South forks of Pine Creek. The water from these diversions is carried by various types of pipe through steep forested terrain to the forebay facility off of Kingsley Road. This conveyance was historically open ditch and required constant care and maintenance and had many failures resulting in landslides. The lower section of Lowline was converted from open canal to pipe in 2012. The upper section (between North Greenpoint Creek and Deadpoint Creek) was piped in the late 1980’s. 2.2 miles of the upper pipe was made of steel and was only partially buried. Over time, the steel pipe was damaged by falling rocks, limbs, and trees as well as losing integrity due to rust. Monitoring of this section of pipe indicated that there was as much as 1.5 cfs lost due to leakage.
In the fall of 2016, after the end of irrigation season, Crestline Construction began tearing out the old steel pipe to replace it with fused high-density polyethylene or HDPE. Fused HDPE pipe is incredibly tough, has no joints that can leak, and is expected to hold up for hundreds of years. Crestline finished the project on schedule and on budget. Water was flowing in the new pipe by mid-November. The replacement of this 2.2 miles of pipe eliminated a weakness and vulnerability in FID’s infrastructure. The water that was saved was put back in stream through an agreement with the State of Oregon called an Allocation of Conserved Water. This project realized benefits for FID and for the Hood River Basin by creating more robust and reliable infrastructure for FID while leaving more water in stream for fish and wildlife.
The total project cost was just under $1.2 million. Funding came from Oregon Water Resources Department’s Water Supply Development Account ($800,000.00) and the Clean Water State Revolving Loan Fund ($400,000.00).
Plant 3 Controls Upgrade:
FID installed the turbine and generator set at Plant 3 in 1986. The turbine and generator have performed very well for the 30 years they have been in operation. Little has changed in terms of turbine and generator technology, however, the technology around controls have changed dramatically.
During the summer and early fall of 2016, FID undertook replacement of the controls, main unit breaker, exciter, and the high pressure unit or HPU. Waylon Bowers of Northwest Engineering (now with Olsen Electric) out of Bend, OR was the designer and engineer for the project and was assisted by FID Hydro Operator Zach DeHart. Local electrician Brian Zurcher with Coburn Electric (now with North Ridge Electric) completed all of the wiring.
The new controls are all digital and utilize a touchscreen panel. The controls and HPU were designed to match the new controls at Plant 2 to create consistency and to allow FID to carry fewer spare parts in inventory. The new equipment installed at Plant 3 will create greater reliability and protection for this valuable infrastructure while decreasing O&M costs and decreasing down time. The total project cost was $654,280.00 and was funded by the Clean Water State Revolving Loan Fund (CWSRF).
Kingsley Reservoir Enhancement Project, Phase 1: Outlet Pipe Replacement
Expansion of the Kingsley Reservoir has been considered for decades. Studies were undertaken as far back as the 1950’s with publication of multiple reports. Early plans included construction of a new dam well downstream of the existing dam with capacity as high as 4,000-acre feet. The upper and lower reservoirs are currently approximately 700-acre feet and 300-acre feet respectively. The District even went so far as to enter into an agreement with Hood River County to guarantee access to the land necessary for this expansion for a period of 20 years (this agreement ended in the early 2000’s).
In 2014, FID applied for and received a grant from the Oregon Department of Water Resources Department for another feasibility analysis of expanding the upper reservoir. The difference this time was that FID had already completed most of the available conservation projects and so the need for additional stored water was minimized. Also, the recently completed Hood River Basin Study pointed to the need for some additional stored water in the future to meet both agricultural needs and in-stream flow needs. The new feasibility study provided analysis of the existing structure and clear understanding of what it would take to put an expansion project together.
In late 2015, FID put together an application for funding to the Oregon Water Resources Department to fund the expansion of the upper reservoir and replacement of a section of the Lowline Pipe. FID was successful in securing $3 million in grant funds for the projects and was awarded the largest grant in the state from the first round of funding from the Water Development Account. FID then secured another $3 million in low interest loan funds from the Clean Water State Revolving Loan Fund to match to the grant funding.
The final plan for the reservoir expansion included an 11-foot dam raise, an additional 650-acre feet of stored water, a new spillway, a new outlet pipe and valve system, and relocation and reconstruction of the campground at Kingsley Reservoir. The project is complicated in that it involves acquiring an additional 20 acres of land from Hood River County to accommodate the expansion, development of a rock pit for the materials for the project, securing new water rights for the additional stored water, and creating an agreement to relocate the campground facilities, as well as multiple permits from state and federal agencies.
The first step in the project was to replace the 80-year-old steel outlet pipe and valve. Prior to raising the dam, this badly deteriorated outlet pipe had to be removed and replaced with fused high density polyethylene (HDPE) pipe encased in re-enforced concrete and fitted with a new upstream valve. Replacing this pipe required the dam to be excavated down to its foundation and so had to occur after irrigation season. The tricky part was to complete the entire project between the end of irrigation season and the onset of wet fall weather. Dam fill material must be placed in dry weather in order to maintain integrity and meet the geotechnical engineering specifications.
Crestline Construction won the bid for the project and began construction the first week in October. As one would expect, there were a few surprises as material was removed from the dam including a whole lot more rock within the fill material than allowed by modern standards. Dealing with the out of spec material slowed the project down and pushed the project right up against the end of the fall weather window. The last fill material was placed with no time to spare. Rain and snow started falling in earnest just as the last bit of material was placed. Fortunately, the dam was deemed ready to receive water for the 2018 irrigation season. The reservoir was filled to capacity by April and the new outlet pipe has performed well.