MVID Project History

The need to increase the efficiency of the irrigation system, improve instream flows for fish in the Methow and Twisp rivers, and correct fish passage problems has been identified in a variety of legal documents and studies in the Methow Basin since the 1980s.

The following list is not necessarily a comprehensive, but it does show the length of time and complexity that has led to the current Project:

  • 1988 - The Washington Department of Ecology (WDOE) issued an order (DE 88-C386) requiring the MVID to rehabilitate its system or curtail water use.

  • 1990 - The Washington Department of Wildlife et al. (1990) published a Methow and Okanogan River Subbasin Salmon and Steelhead Production Plan that identified problems with the MVID irrigation system.

  • 1990 - The Klohn Leonoff study, commissioned and completed by WDOE and MVID, addressed significant issues such as poor maintenance and inefficient water use of the canal system (Klohn Leonoff Consulting Engineers, 1990).

  • 1991 - The Yakama Nation filed suit against the WDOE and MVID for failing to implement the measures recommended in the Klohn Leonoff report and enjoin the MVID’s wasteful water practices.

  • 1992- WDOE completed the Methow River Basin Fish Habitat Analysis using the Instream Flow Incremental Methodology

  • 1994 - The Methow Valley Water Pilot Planning Project prepared a Draft Methow Basin Plan that addressed irrigation issues in the Methow Basin.

  • 1996 - The Montgomery Water Group completed a Water Supply Facility Plan for WDOE and the MVID, which assessed the overall state of the system and quantified the amount of water being used at that time. The "Montgomery Plan" (large 55 MB file) suggested alternative water conservation strategies to benefit fish, improve system efficiency, and continue water provisions for irrigation. The plan included a recommendation for a pressurized closed-pipe system to convey water to the users.

  • 1997 BPA completed a Final Environmental Assessment (DOE/EA-1181) that evaluated a range of alternatives to rehabilitate MVID’s irrigation program (BPA, 1997b). A Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) was issued in 1997 for two of the alternatives: 1) The proposed action (Alternative A), which included removal of the instream diversions and fish screens and replacing them with groundwater wells and pressurized pipe placed in the existing canals; and 2) Dissolution of the MVID (Alternative C).

  • 2000- the MVID Board voted for the exclusion of lands in the district as contemplated under the proposed action in the 1997 EA (Jolley et al., 2000). The MVID Board also voted not to accept the pressurized pipe system (alternative A in the 1997 EA) because of the following reasons (Jolley et al. 2000):
  • assumed high O&M costs;
  • no assurance that legal rights-of-way for a pipeline system were secured;
  • pump tests appeared incomplete;
  • no guarantee for funding;
  • concerns about insufficient water rights from DOE; and
  • concern for impacts to habitat fed by leaking canals.
  •  2000- NOAA Fisheries sued the MVID. NOAA Fisheries claimed that the MVID’s water diversion activities on the Methow and Twisp rivers constituted a “taking” of endangered Upper Columbia spring Chinook salmon and endangered Upper Columbia steelhead, which violated Section 9 of the ESA. NOAA Fisheries also sought to permanently enjoin MVID from operating its diversions until measures were implemented to avoid the repeated incidental taking of these species or until the MVID obtained a Section 10 permit allowing such takings. The parties ultimately entered into a court-approved consent decree that provided that if the MVID did not eliminate surface water diversions, then the drum screens would have to be remeshed to comply with the National Marine Fisheries Service’ Juvenile Fish Screen Criteria to protect juvenile salmonids (NMFS, 1995 and 1996). MVID rejected the first option (elimination of surface water diversions) in favor of an enclosed pressurized pipe system, which was BPA’s original preferred alternative adopted in its 1997 FONSI and elected to pursue the replacement screen option.
  • Spring 2001- BPA funded a series of facilitated discussions to revisit a proposal for

    MVID improvements. Participants included representatives of MVID, BPA, WDOE, WDFW, Yakama Nation, and NOAA Fisheries. The group settled on a proposal to line the East and West canals with concrete and convert the flood irrigation diversions to pump houses. Ultimately, the MVID rejected this alternative because of the anticipated high future power costs for pumping.

  • Summer 2001- 15 laterals were piped with PVC pipe, and new outlet boxes were installed.
  • April 2002- the WDOE issued an Administrative Order requiring MVID to limit its diversion of water from the Twisp and Methow Rivers to a combined maximum instantaneous rate of 53 cfs. MVID and the Okanogan Wilderness League (OWL) both appealed this Order to the State Pollution Control Hearings Board (PCHB), a case commonly called ‘MVID I”.
  • August 2003- the PCHB found that WDOE’s Order reducing MVID’s diversions to 53 cfs did not “meaningfully address the significant inefficiencies of MVID’s conveyance system,” and ordered WDOE to re-examine the MVID irrigation system with the goal of issuing a supplemental order to adequately address conveyance losses.
  • August 2003- BPA provided funding for the replacement of the MVID East and West diversion screens screens, and completed an Environmental Assessment".
  • December 2003- WDOE responded to the PCHB with a second Administrative Order, which included recommendations that:
    • MVID increase system efficiency by at least 54%.
    • MVID be given 3 years to implement efficiency improvements, with interim flow goals until Project completion.
    • The final total diversion allowed should not exceed 31cfs, with Twisp River diversions limited to 11 cfs, and Methow River diversions limited to 20 cfs.
  • 2005- Intake screens and headgates were rebuilt for both East and West Canals.

  • 2006- 5,279’ of the main West Canal was piped in 24” or 30” HDPE pipe.

  • 2007- MVID Appeal of PCHB decision to Okanogan Superior Court is denied.

  • December 2007- Anchor Environmental completed a Canal Management Plan detailing the total water deliveries, seepage losses, and improvement alternatives for both the East and West Canals.

  • 2009- MVID East Diversion gets a “major overhaul”- MV News Article.

  • December 2010- Washington Water Project of Trout Unlimited (WWP-TU) completed an updated Efficiency Alternatives Analysis, identifying data gaps and next steps for MVID and partners to move forward with irrigation efficiency improvements.

  • March 2011- MVID and WDOE signed an agreement that settled all previous legal disputes and penalties outstanding since 2003, with the understanding that the MVID will incrementally reduce the amount of water it diverts, with a final reduction to be achieved by 2016.

  • Spring 2012- MVID and WWP-TU agreed to work together to address irrigation efficiency and infrastructure improvement needs.

  • Dec. 2012- Memorandum of Agreement signed between WWP-TU and MVID to change the point of Diversion for the MVID West Canal from the Twisp to the Methow River, and to convert the MVID West system to piped water delivery and wells (either individual or group wells). Four alternatives are currently being evaluated to compare various pump/pipe/well options.