In 1903 the USBR began investigating the possibility of irrigating lands along the lower Umatilla River by gravity flow. During 1903 and 1904 the Umatilla River and its tributaries were surveyed and the most feasible reservoir sites were mapped. Subsequent investigations were made to find a reservoir site on the irrigable lands east of the Umatilla River. These studies resulted in the establishment of the Umatilla Project and identification of the Cold Springs Reservoir site.
The original Umatilla Project was authorized in 1905 under the 1902 Reclamation Act. Most facilities were constructed between 1906 and 1927 to supply water to a total of about 30,000 acres. HID is one of four irrigation districts that make up the Umatilla Project. The Umatilla Project was designed to supply water through a network of canals and pipelines to nearly 25,000 acres. The source of water is the Umatilla River and Cold Springs Reservoir. Construction of HID’s facilities began in 1906. The first water delivery from Cold Springs Reservoir was made on March 8, 1908.
During the construction period and up until 1926 the system was operated by USBR as the east division of the Umatilla Project. In 1926 HID was formed and took over operations and maintenance of the system with a repayment contract with USBR. Since the 1926 contract the District has entered into modified contracts with USBR to establish a new payment schedule in 1954 and a boundary adjustment contract in 2003. In addition to these contracts the District has a repayment contract with USBR for the safety of dams’ work that was required on Cold Springs Reservoir during the mid 90’s, this contract took effect in 1997.
A project called the Umatilla Basin Plan was introduced in 1988 which provides infrastructure and the ability to exchange Umatilla River water for Columbia River water for the benefit of the fishery in the Umatilla River. This is a bucket for bucket exchange with the pumping costs from the Columbia River being paid by Bonneville Power Administration. Although the Umatilla Basin Plan and Exchange do not provide any additional amount of water to HID it does provide a more reliable supply of water and a great benefit to the community.
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