West Extension Irrigation District does not allow swimming in its canals, either by people or animals. The water is very fast moving and it can pull you under. It is very hard to get out of the canal, because the sides are very steep and slippery. There may be herbicides and unknown run-off in the canal.
According to the Idaho CareLine, both children and adults drown yearly in irrigation canals and they report that more children drown in canals than any other body of water annually.
Canal water is very cold and fast moving. West Extension Irrigation District estimates the water flow in its Main Canal, which flows from Umatilla through Boardman, to travel about 1.5 miles per hour at 2.2 feet per second. A flow study was done earlier this year by putting agricultural dye in the canal to provide a visual of how fast the water travels. In 30 minutes, it was about a half mile away from where the dye was dropped.
Canal waters and roads adjacent to canals are not for public use. The canals in some cases are owned in fee (private property) or have a right of way held by irrigation districts, ditch companies or government entities. It is a trespass or encroachment to recreate within the width of the canal right of way.
Irrigation is the primary purpose of canals. The average depths of canals are between 1 to 10 feet deep and some have very steep vertical banks. Canals deliver irrigation water through all areas in Oregon. WEID’s Main Canal is 27 miles long, starting at the Three Mile Falls Dam.
The best way to be safe from canals is to stay away. It’s not only dangerous for children; it’s hazardous for everyone, including your pets. Stay out.
Otto Otter Coloring Books are available at the office. They use graphics in both English and Spanish to teach children about canal safety. Stop by the office for your free copy.