The Basin Study Work Group is coming to the end of their multi-year study of water needs and availability in the upper Deschutes Basin and holding public meetings to discuss the results. This is an important event for local anglers and I encourage you to attend. BWSG shows what is possible in terms of restoring flows in the upper Deschutes River but it does not require any actions be taken. Public pressure can change that.
As I detailed in my Upper Deschutes Backgrounder, there are currently two processes going on that will determine flows in the upper Deschutes River for potentially the next 40 years: BSWG and the listing of the Oregon Spotted Frog as an endangered species. In order for water to continue to be withdrawn from the Deschutes without the threat of litigation or government action, irrigators must develop a Habitat Conservation Plan which shows how they will improve habitat and limit, but not eliminate, further killing of the OSP. Due to the presence of endangered steelhead, the HCP currently being drafted will also cover irrigators and the City of Prineville drawing from the Crooked River.
The fundamental issue anglers face is the disconnect between what is possible as shown by BSWG and what the irrigators have proposed in their HCP. I have detailed this disconnect in many posts, see the Basin Study Work Group and Habitat Conservation Plan categories in this blog.
The BSWG has shown that there is enough water to meet the needs of irrigators, fish and wildlife, and municipal water systems. The problem can be solved but the draft HCP from the irrigators has incomplete solutions and proposes taking decades to implement them. They have tough financial and cultural issues to overcome but their current plan is for the rivers to continue to feel the pain.
I encourage you to attend one of the following presentations and educate yourself further.
Sunriver: March 5, 1-3 p.m., Sunriver Homeowners Aquatic Recreation Center (SHARC), 57250 Overlook Road, Sunriver, OR 97701
Bend: March 5, 5:30-7:30 p.m., Bend Parks and Recreation District Office, 799 SW Columbia Street, Bend, OR 97702
Madras: March 6, 5:30-7:30 p.m., The Inn at Cross Keys Station, 66 NW Cedar Street, Madras, OR 97741