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Frequently Asked Questions

What is WISE?
Where is the project located?
Why is the project being proposed?
What are the anticipated project benefits?
What project alternatives are being proposed?
What processwill be used to achieve results?
What is the Project Advisory Committee?
Who are the WISE Partners?
What is the project timeline?
How will the project be funded?
How will this project use reclaimed water?
Will any water be conserved through the WISE Project?
How can I become involved in the WISE Project?

What is WISE?
WISE (Water for Irrigation, Streams and Economy) is a regionally-supported water management project that will improve the Bear Creek and Little Butte Creek watersheds in Jackson County, southern Oregon. This pivotal effort will enhance the viability of regional agriculture, critical habitat, and quality of life.

The goals of the project are to:

  • Increase stream flows and improve water quality in Bear Creek and Little Butte Creek during irrigation season.
  • Improve reliability, efficiency, and effectiveness of water delivery to irrigation districts and their customers.
  • Improve the raw water supply quality for municipal treatment and distribution.
  • Improve aquatic habitat for native anadromous salmonids and riparian species.

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Where is the project located?
The WISE Project area is located within Jackson County, southern Oregon. The study area encompasses the Bear Creek and Little Butte Creek watersheds, including the streams and reservoirs that serve the creeks. Six reservoirs in Jackson and Klamath counties supply water to the Bear Creek and Little Butte Creek systems: Agate, Fish, Fourmile, Howard Prairie, Hyatt, and Emigrant. The cities of Medford, Ashland, Talent, Phoenix, Central Point, and Jacksonville are located within the Bear Creek Watershed. The City of Eagle Point is in the Little Butte Creek Watershed. (See project area map.)

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Why is the project being proposed?
The WISE Project is being proposed to address the problems of degraded water quantity and quality for native anadromous salmonids in the Bear Creek and Little Butte Creek watersheds by improving irrigation reliability and aquatic habitat in an economically and environmentally feasibly manner.

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What are the anticipated project benefits?

  • Sustained, vibrant agricultural community
  • Reliable municipal and agricultural water supplies
  • Preservation of aesthetic values in the region by keeping land in open space, improving water quality, and increasing reservoir and stream levels
  • Beneficial use of reclaimed water to supplement agricultural irrigation supplies

Benefits to the Public
Improving the water supply system and increasing water reliability will benefit irrigation and agricultural interests that rely on water for maximum agricultural productivity. Increasing the water supply and improving the water quality of the streams will enhance the habitat for fish, including native salmonids. Improving water quantity and quality of flows in Little Butte Creek will improve water quality at the Medford Water Commission Robert Duff Water Treatment Facility. Maintaining reservoir water levels and increasing creek flows will provide continued recreational access for fishing and boating.

Benefits to Irrigation Customers
WISE involves upgrading and improving the delivery system that supplies water for Talent Irrigation District, Medford Irrigation District, and Rogue River Valley Irrigation District. Parts of this system, including 200+ miles of canals that deliver water, are over 90 years old. Many of the canals leak and lose water through evaporation, thereby reducing the amount of water delivered to irrigation customers. By upgrading the system, irrigation customers will be able to count on greater water availability, more reliable water delivery during the irrigation season, and improved water quality.

Benefits to the Environment
The project will evaluate alternatives to enhance fish habitat in Bear Creek and Little Butte Creek and their tributaries. The project has the potential to reduce sediment, temperatures, bacteria, and nutrients in the water and increase in-stream flows, which are critical to maintaining healthy fish habitat. More natural flow patterns will benefit fish, and removal of flow barriers will increase accessibility of spawning and rearing habitat.

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What project alternatives are being proposed?
The following alternatives, singly or in combination, are under consideration:

  • Piping irrigation canals
  • Increased conservation measures
  • Using recycled water for irrigation purposes
  • Increasing storage capacity of selected reservoirs

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What process will be used to achieve results?

In mid-2004, a Feasibility Study and Environmental Impact Statement (FS/EIS) was conducted to identify and evaluate alternatives. The FS/EIS is being conducted in compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act. Potential environmental impacts from the project and the necessary mitigation measures to lessen the impacts will be identified in the FS/EIS.

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What is the Project Advisory Committee?
WISE is composed of a group of 19 dedicated stakeholders representing agricultural, irrigation, municipal, environmental, watershed, local, state, and federal interests that make up the Project Advisory Committee (PAC). The PAC meets monthly to guide project development and evaluate project alternatives.

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Who are the WISE Partners?
WISE Partners are the agencies that are legally and financially responsible for the project, including the City of Medford, Medford Water Commission, Jackson County, Talent Irrigation District, Medford Irrigation District, and Rogue River Valley Irrigation District. The Partners are developing an agreement to guide project funding.

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What is the project timeline?
The Feasibility Study/Environmental Impact Statement (FS/EIS) began in mid-2004 and continues today. Scoping meetings to gather public comments on the FS/EIS were held in fall 2004. Design discussions are currently underway in 2009. This first phase of the project is scheduled for completion in spring 2010, with construction anticipated in 2011.

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How will the project be funded?
The City of Medford, Oregon is funding the second phase of the FS/EIS through June 2009 with an Environmental Protection Agency grant. Project partners are seeking funding through local, state, and federal agencies to implement the entire WISE Project.

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How will this project use reclaimed water?
The WISE Project will benefit from water treated to water quality Level IV, which is suitable for use on any crop. Accessing this water for agricultural re-use instead of discharging it into the Rogue River will help meet stringent water temperature standards.

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Will any water be conserved through the WISE Project?
Absolutely. The FS/EIS will examine ways to conserve water for in-stream purposes that both enhance the quality of the streams and the riparian habitat. Piping canals will significantly reduce losses due to evaporation and leakage. Such losses can be as high as 50% during water delivery.

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How can I become involved in the WISE Project?
The WISE Project partners are committed to informing the community and public participation is encouraged. PAC meetings are held every month and are open to public. Upcoming public meeting and events will be posted on this Web site. For more information, contact Steve Mason, WISE Project Coordinator, at smason@wiseproject.org or (541) 951-0854.

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