Alpine Meadows’ new irrigation system is win-win for golfers, fish

By Katy Nesbitt, The Observer October 16, 2013 10:03 am

A pond was built last winter at Alpine Meadows Golf Course in Enterprise to store irrigation water and provide a new feature for golfers. Bonneville Power Administration funded and Grande Ronde Model  Watershed coordinated the project with the board and staff of the course. The project was completed at the end of September. (KATY NESBITT/The Observer)
A pond was built last winter at Alpine Meadows Golf Course in Enterprise to store irrigation water and provide a new feature for golfers. Bonneville Power Administration funded and Grande Ronde Model Watershed coordinated the project with the board and staff of the course. The project was completed at the end of September. (KATY NESBITT/The Observer)

What’s good for fish is also good for golfers at Enterprise’s Alpine Meadows. A project coordinated by Grande Ronde Model Watershed is improving water quality and fish passage while creating a more diverse golf course. 

The nine-hole Alpine Meadows has a dramatic backdrop of the Wallowa Mountains. Large willows and cottonwoods line the 100 year-old course, popular with local members and visitors alike.

Until this summer, the course was watered by an aging system that had been targeted for replacement. It was run by an inefficient 40-horsepower pump that pulled water out of a dammed pool in Trout Creek. The pool inhibited fish passage upstream, said Coby Menton of Grande Ronde Model Watershed, and its annual maintenance caused erosion and sedimentation in the creek, disturbing habitat for juvenile steelhead and other native fish.

This past spring, 21 steelhead redds, or nests, and nine live steelhead were observed in Trout Creek, Menton said. “Increasing flow, improving water quality and removing the fish passage barrier will directly benefit steelhead that spawn and rear in Trout Creek.”

What’s more, Menton said, is in the late summer months when the creek’s natural flow is at its lowest, the irrigation system could consume the entire flow.

Habitat benefit for both steelhead and chinook salmon, the project was a good match for Bonneville Power Administration funding as part of its salmon mitigation responsibilities.

An idea was hatched to use effluent from the nearby water treatment plant, opened in 2010, and within three years the project came together. Effluent couldn’t be used from the old treatment plant, Menton said, but the new system’s state-of-the-art equipment renders the water clean enough for irrigation in a public setting.

Menton said with the new facility on line, the project went into the design phase in 2011, which included a storage pond, a wastewater transport pipeline, a new pump and pump house, and modifications to the existing underground irrigation system.

The new pump is a plus for the course as well because its variable frequency drive saves energy. Course Superintendent Gregg Sturdevant said, “It only goes as fast as it needs to, from 5-horsepower up to 50-horsepower.”

A buried 12-inch mainline connects the pond to the waste pipeline. Its operation is non-mechanical, Menton said, has no electronic or moving parts, and stops flowing when the pond is full.

As for the golfers, Menton said the new features offer a more interesting course. The pond, built in January when the ground was frozen, is not only functional for water storage, but adds a water feature to the course.

After the ground thawed, pipe was laid from the inlet at a concrete vault on the east side of the course to the pond, replacing a system that previously used water straight from Trout Creek.

Storing water in the new pond prior to using it on the course provides an additional water quality benefit, Menton said, through evaporation and the settling of residual treatment compounds. By pulling water from the storage pond, the pump is able to completely irrigate the 55-acre course more efficiently and in less time than the previous pump.

Interestingly, using treated wastewater is cleaner than the water from Trout Creek.

Menton said, “This water’s cleaner because it has no silt, rocks or sticks getting sucked into the system.”

Sturdevant said using creek water forced him to clean the sprinkler heads weekly, so the new system will save labor and time as well.

Using the waste water also brings in plant food like nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus, Menton said.

“The course acts like a 55-acre biofilter for the effluent,” Sturdevant said.

Unlike many of the projects taken on by the Watershed, this one is in the public eye.

Menton said, “This project is a good project because it is relevant, needed and appropriate. It’s good for fish restoration and has a public relations aspect; it’s not a farm out of view — it is publicly used.”

Sturdevant agreed and said from public’s perspective it’s a win-win. “It’s a better public golf course with additional aesthetics like the water feature and shaping the course with the extra dirt.”