Future of Oregon Water Resources in Peril

That’s the title of an article that came out earlier this month. It’s well written and worth a read. It mirrors some of the themes I have been visiting for some time now. Less snow pack combined with heating will lead to water insecurity in Oregon for which we are not ready or planning. At the same time, demand is growing along with our population. We continue to waste water and don’t even really know who is using it or how much of it. Agriculture remains the primary culprit in this, most users have no conservation plans and do not report usage while using over 85% of all water. To add insult to injury, agricultural interests routinely challenge any attempt to restore flows in rivers. At least we could charge them for use of our water (all water is owned by the public). That would solve the inefficiency problem very quickly.

Artifishal: Not a Complete Picture

Last night I attended the Bend premier of Artifishal, “a film about people, rivers, and the fight for the future of wild fish and the environment that supports them. It explores wild salmon’s slide toward extinction, threats posed by fish hatcheries and fish farms, and our continued loss of faith in nature”.  Produced by Patagonia and heavily promoted in the Pacific NW by the Native Fish Society, I found the film to be visually and emotionally powerful but lacking in nuance.  Clearly, hatcheries are a problem for wild fish, but they are only part of a complex web of issues.Read More »

PGE Water Quality Study

Portland General Electric’s long awaited lower Deschutes River water quality study was recently released.  At over 600 pages it took me some time to get through, here are my initial impressions.  This study is critically important to the ongoing effort to reintroduce anadromous fish into the upper Deschutes Basin and the operation of the Selective Water Withdrawal tower.  Also note that the Deschutes River Alliance’s lawsuit against PGE/CTWS (dismissed but under appeal) is based on allegations of water quality violations.  The author of the water quality study will present and answer questions at the upcoming Fisheries Workshop. Read More »

Upper Basin Kokanee & Sockeye

I don’t write much about kokanee and sockeye, but they are part of the effort to reintroduce anadromous fish into the upper Deschutes Basin.  The tribes frequently talk about the cultural significance of sockeye but they seem to be of secondary importance in reintroduction efforts.  As a fly angler who likes to target large fish, I am also very aware that kokanee are the primary food source for bull trout in Lake Billy Chinook.Read More »

Prepping for the Fisheries Workshop

The annual Pelton Round Butte Fisheries Workshop is rapidly approaching so I have been reviewing notes from last year along with updates since then.  I’ll make a few posts from that review over the next week.  Like I have said before, if you are interested in learning about what is really happening in the lower Deschutes River, Lake Billy Chinook, and anadromous fish reintroduction efforts, you should attend.

Spring Chinook Returns: Commentary

Portland General Electric has recently been talking about above average returns of reintroduced spring chinook this year.  I first saw mention of this in their June newsletter, then there was this story on KTVZ, and then today’s story in the Bend Bulletin.  I hesitated to write about these returns but given the coverage, here’s my two cents.  Without a doubt this is good news but with a total of 46 adult fish so far this year returns remain dismal.  PGE is crediting the improvement to operational changes, specifically releasing hatchery reared smolts rather than fry along with nighttime operation of the Selective Water Withdrawal tower during out migration periods.  I certainly hope these are the reasons.  Time will tell, however, if this is an aberration, like the recent one year spike in Sockeye returns that has not repeated itself, or the beginning of a true recovery.  I’m hopeful, but cautious.

Farmers Agreeing with Me?

For years I have argued that Central Oregon water rights currently favor less productive lands, leave the most economically viable farmlands at risk, and should be redistributed in a way that offers the most societal value. There are ways to do this that would not leave current rights holders “high and dry”. I have also argued that the beneficial use standard must be clearly defined, simply spreading water on the ground so that it is green should not qualify. So, I was pleasantly surprised to see the guest column in the Bend Bulletin this morning from a farmer in Madras making essentially the same arguments.Read More »