Pump-back project planned on lower Icicle

April 7, 2024

An irrigation district is moving its diversion point downstream to improve streamflow in the lower Icicle.

The Cascade Orchard Irrigation District, which currently diverts water from the Icicle at the same place as the Leavenworth fish hatchery, will move its diversion point downstream 2.7 miles. The new water take-out will be less than two miles upstream from the confluence of Icicle Creek with the Wenatchee River.

This change will improve streamflow an estimated 11.9 cubic feet per second between the old and new diversion points. Late summer and autumn streamflow in Icicle Creek is chronically low and likely to become even lower with climate change. It presents a serious challenge for fish.

Moving the diversion point downstream requires a pumping station to bring the water back up to the level needed for gravity flow down the irrigation canal. Chelan County will act as construction manager on the project, which carries a $9 million price tag. County commissioners have approved $3.9 million. Mike Kaputa, Chelan County’s Natural Resources director, predicts this project will serve as a starting point for upgrading multiple water systems along Icicle Creek. He estimates construction will start in the next several weeks and continue through April 2025.

The Icicle Peshastin Irrigation District, which has grandfathered water rights on several lakes within the Alpine Lakes Wilderness, has been considering a similar pump-back project and has discussed it with environmental groups. So far the district has made no decision.

This project has no direct effect on water issues within the Wilderness, but streamflow concerns arise in most situations. Withdrawing water for any purpose is always at odds with leaving it in the stream.