Westland is one of the four irrigation districts in the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation’s Umatilla Project, located in north-central Oregon. Established in 1917, Westland is a private district delivering Umatilla River water early in the spring and McKay Reservoir water later in the summer to approximately 14,700 acres of farmland, mainly in Umatilla County. Farm and ranch families in the district raise crops which include alfalfa, carrots, beans, corn, grass seed, melons, mint, onions, peas, potatoes, wheat and pasture for livestock.
Westland holds Oregon state water rights to Umatilla River water supplies and has a contract with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation) for stored water in Reclamation’s McKay Dam and Reservoir, located south of Pendleton. Westland’s earliest primary Umatilla River water right is from 1903 for 33.12 cfs. The District holds additional primary Umatilla water rights from 1907 (53.2 cfs), 1961 (35.12 cfs), and 1981 (1.68 cfs). The District gained supplemental water rights for stored water in McKay Reservoir in 1924. The district’s privately owned diversion facilities, the Westland Diversion Dam and Main Canal, are located 1 mile south of Echo. Separate individuals holding Umatilla River water rights, and water right holders in four private ditch companies, also rely upon Westland’s canal to convey their water supplies. Westland has fully repaid the U.S. for its share of capital construction costs for the Umatilla Project. The district works collaboratively with local, state and federal agencies, conservation groups and the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation.
About the Umatilla Basin
Umatilla Project: The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation) authorized The Umatilla Project on December 4, 1905 under the 1902 Reclamation Act. The project was authorized to deliver water to 36,000 acres in the Umatilla Basin. This area is divided into three divisions: East, West, and South. The East portion contains most of the Hermiston Irrigation District, the West portion completely encompasses the West Extension Irrigation District, and the South portion contains the Stanfield and Westland Irrigation Districts. In 1923, approval for the Bureau of Reclamation’s McKay Dam project was granted. The dam was completed in 1927, and the McKay Reservoir allowed for the storage of supplemental water rights for the Westland and Stanfield Irrigation Districts.
In the 1980’s, the region’s focus turned towards water conservation and mitigation of losses to anadromous fishery resources. The 1988 Umatilla Basin Project, one of Oregon’s more renowned fisheries restoration projects, resulted in significant benefits for salmon, steelhead and other fish and wildlife species on the Umatilla River. Under the law, the irrigation districts agreed to reduce their diversions from the Umatilla River to enhance instream flows for fish. These efforts led to improved habitat conditions for steelhead and other anadromous fisheries.
Umatilla River and Basin: The Umatilla is a tributary of the Columbia River. The Umatilla’s own tributaries include Meacham, McKay, Birch, and Butter Creeks. The Umatilla drains about 2,545 square miles. River flow generally peak in the spring and come to a low point in the summer. When this happens, Westland turns to water from the McKay Reservoir to meet the necessary water demands of the District. In addition to the McKay Reservoir, other important infrastructure components of the Umatilla Basin include the Cold Springs Dam, Feed Canal and Diversion Dam, Maxwell Diversion Dam and Canal, Three Mile Falls Diversion Dam, and the West Extension Main Canal. In the case of the Westland Irrigation District, the Westland Diversion Dam diverts water from the Umatilla River into the Westland Canal.