Deschutes River Alliance water quality study

The Deschutes River Alliance recently released their 2017 lower Deschutes water quality study.  I admire their continued efforts to be stewards of the lower Deschutes.  I also remain critical of their work and have a simple question: if the water quality of the lower Deschutes is so bad then why are the fish so healthy and abundant?  As an angler, that’s what I really care about.  Perhaps the DRA should spend more time studying the fish and less time speculating about what may or may not happen to them based on their views of water quality.

I am not a scientist, but I frequently talk to them and understand the importance of the scientific method.  As has been pointed out by others, the DRA’s work lacks the rigor and peer review to be seriously considered.

Conversely, Portland General Electric/Confederated Tribes of Warms Springs has followed the scientific method.  They commissioned a macroinvertebrate study from an independent organization that showed no harmful effects overall on the macroinvertebrate population in the lower Deschutes.  After review, some elements of the study were criticized by the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality.  Those parts of the study were redone, the issues raised by ODEQ were addressed, and the results were unchanged – overall, macroinvertebrates do not appear to be negatively impacted by the operation of the Selective Water Withdraw facility (“the fish tower”).

At the same time, PGE/CTWS commissioned an even more comprehensive study by another independent group.  That study is now complete and out for peer review.  It is scheduled to be released to the public this fall.  This rigor is an important element of the scientific method and something that the DRA has not submitted itself to.

Perhaps the new PGE/CTWS commissioned report now being reviewed will show negative impacts on the lower river due to the operation of the SWW.  If so, then the Fish Committee will have to take appropriate steps.  (The Fish Committee is PGE/CTWS, various agencies, and environmental groups that provide oversight of SWW operation and the anadromous fish reintroduction effort.)

Clearly, a robust discussion concerning the lower Deschutes is beneficial to us all.  I wish, however, that the hyperbole that has marked some of the discussion would be avoided.  I also believe the DRA owes its members and the greater angling community an explanation of what they would do differently.

Anadromous fish reintroduction into the upper Basin is required by the federal government and removing the dams is not going to happen in my lifetime.  What is the DRA’s plan that will allow for anadromous fish reintroduction while avoiding the issues they believe to exist in the lower river?  Many would love to hear it.