The Crooked River is an irrigation ditch

Last week was a typical example of how the Crooked River is managed by the Bureau of Reclamation and local irrigation districts with no concern for fish and wildlife. In only 45 minutes on April 26th, releases from Bowman Dam into the Crooked River rose from 144 cfs to 240 cfs. This started at 5:45 am and ended at 6:30 am. I hope no anglers or wildlife were wading in the river early that morning. Of course, a sudden surge of this magnitude will have stirred up considerable spawning bed clogging sediment.

The rise in flows was due to North Unit Irrigation District requesting water. The graph below shows flows in the Crooked River at the City of Prineville. It took a few hours for the water to get there, but the river suddenly rose from 2 cfs (!) to 80 cfs. At 2 cfs, that stretch of the river was mostly dead already, but a sudden gush of water will have sent sediment down for miles.

Finally, here is the gauge just below the NUID withdrawal. On the afternoon of April 27th the water made it to just above Smith Rocks where NUID started diverting it into their canal. This is an interesting graph. The graph above shows the Crooked at 2 cfs on April 25th below Prineville. The graph below shows the river varying between 54 and 62 cfs on April 25th, it had been between 80 and 90 cfs for most of the year until early April. The increase in flows between Prineville and the NUID diversion is due to inflows into the Crooked downstream from Prineville, notably from McKay and Ochoco Creeks, Prineville’s wastewater recharge, and polluted agricultural runoff.

I understand the need to deliver water to NUID, but it does not need to be done in such a sudden and ecologically damaging manner.