Thursday, June 13, 2024

Construction begins on Icicle Creek irrigation project

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LEAVENWORTH - Construction has begun on a $9 million project to modernize a century-old irrigation system along Icicle Creek near Leavenworth. The upgrades are expected to provide major environmental benefits to the fragile creek and its fish habitat.

The Cascade Orchard Irrigation Company (COIC) Improvement Project officially launched construction near the end of Shore Street earlier this month. Contractor Strider Construction of Bellingham has started work building a new pump station that will be a key component of the upgraded system.

"This system has served its users well since 1907, but the infrastructure is aging and in need of many repairs and upgrades," said Dan Wilkinson, former president of the COIC board. "The modernization of the system will not only benefit shareholders but also have significant environmental benefits to the creek and fish habitat."

The project will shift COIC's irrigation from an open gravity-fed canal system to an enclosed, pressurized pipeline. It will move the diversion point on Icicle Creek 2.6 miles downstream, separating it from the Leavenworth National Fish Hatchery. These changes are projected to restore 11.9 cubic feet per second of streamflow to the creek's lower reaches. 

Low streamflows have been a chronic issue in Icicle Creek, and they stand to worsen with climate change. The COIC project is the first of several planned initiatives under the Icicle Strategy, a regional water management plan to improve flows for fish and wildlife.

"This project will be the first big step toward meeting the instream flow goal," said Mike Kaputa, director of Chelan County Natural Resources, which is overseeing construction. "Our goal is to meet the water needs of all users, including fish, agriculture and domestic supply."

The bulk of the project's $9 million budget comes from state and federal grants. In-stream construction work is slated for August, with pipeline installation to follow in the fall. The aim is to have the new irrigation system online for the start of the 2025 growing season next May.

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