The Farmers Screen is an innovative fish screen designed to allow water to flow from a river into an irrigation system while preventing fish and debris from being trapped. Because the Farmers Screen prevents clogging, fish lives are saved, farmers save thousands of dollars annually in avoided operation and maintenance costs, and green, fish-friendly hydropower can be realized.
The Farmers Conservation Alliance (FCA) is the nonprofit social enterprise bringing the Farmers Screen to market and making it readily available to farmers throughout the West. The screen was originally developed by the Farmers Irrigation District (FID) of Hood River, who worked collaboratively with regulatory agencies, nonprofits, and farmers for 10 years to develop a solution that benefited everyone. FID subsequently licensed the patent to FCA in 2005.
Ecological and Economic Need
There are more than 500,000 unscreened water diversions in the western United States, 55,000 of which are in Oregon. These diversions are essential for food production, power generation, and municipal water needs. But without appropriate screens, farmers struggle with excessive operation and maintenance costs, and, in the words of Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, “there are surely hundreds of thousands of fish that die each year due to unscreened diversions” in Oregon alone.
FCA works with landowners, engineering firms, and local, state and regional governments to distribute, install, and ensure the success of Farmers Screens. FCA also works to address institutional barriers preventing widespread fish screen installations, and re-invests profits in other organizations and solutions that benefit both the environment and agriculture.
Since 2005, FCA has installed 34 screens – 15 in Oregon – and received National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) approval. The Farmers Screen has opened 22 river miles for safe fish passage, protected 34,545 acres of farmland, saved farmers $485,000 annually, and enabled the generation of 13 megawatts of green, fish-friendly power.
This Project is Replicable
Only 10% – 25% of diversions across the western United States are screened. FCA is addressing this by continuing to expand its Farmers Screen distribution and installation throughout the west, and across the country. Additionally, FCA is widening its scope of services to include large-scale irrigation infrastructure improvements. Like the Farmers Screen, these projects will provide irrigation districts and landowners modern irrigation systems to ensure optimal performance and efficiencies, while at the same time provide community and conservation benefits.