2019 – 2020 Steelhead Counts: Getting Worse

chart

The 2019-2020 Deschutes summer steelhead season is not over, but we are close enough to draw conclusions.  They continue to be dismal.  Steelhead start entering the Deschutes River on their one-way journey to spawn in late spring and early summer.  These “summer” steelhead may make it to their spawning grounds in a tributary far upriver as early as September or as late as April.  They have an amazing life story. Read More »

$42M to Pipe 7.9 Miles of Canal!

Central Oregon Irrigation District is asking for another round of taxpayer funding to pipe a small section of their 400+ miles of canals.  This time the request is for $42M to pipe 7.9 miles of canal.  Yesterday Central Oregon Land Watch posted their analysis of this proposal.  Per COLW, $42M equates to “$568,000 per irrigator”.  I wish I got this sort of taxpayer subsidy.  The Basin Study Work Group clearly showed ways to save the same amount of water for 25% of the cost of main canal piping.  WaterWatch has pointed out that there are no guarantees in this latest piping proposal that any conserved water be permanently returned to the upper Deschutes.  And, as always, there is no mention of increasing flows in the middle Deschutes during irrigation season.  The song remains the same…

Middle Deschutes Flows

thumbnail

Today I saw that one of the COID main canals near my house was full of water so I checked the graph.  As you can see below, there have been some pretty dramatic fluctuations in the Deschutes below Bend over the past week.  There was an abrupt diversion into the canals on February 10 and it looks like another is starting today.  (Note that it can take a few days for the water to make it down the canals.)  As I have written before, these sudden fluctuations wreak havoc on the aquatic environment and cause increased sedimentation which fills spawning beds.Read More »

Warming Oceans Driving Whales Closer to Shore and Danger

Whale Entanglements

Here’s a story form NOAA Fisheries discussing increased whale entanglements in nets on the West Coast due to a warming Pacific.  The meat of the story is that “warm temperatures attracted subtropical species rarely seen in the region. The krill that humpback whales typically feed on grew scarce. The whales switched to feed instead on high concentrations of anchovy that the warm, less productive waters had squeezed into a narrow band near the coast”.  This has lead to a record number of entanglements.

Weather is not Climate

The Bulletin ran a story last week on the local snow pack which reminded me that I had not posted on this topic since last spring.  The winter is a little less than half over and so far the snow pack looks pretty good, but all is not well.  Weather is not climate, Oregon remains drier than normal, groundwater levels are going down, and we continue to allocate water based on 100 year old water laws which were written in a very different environment.  Keeping reading for more.Read More »

ODFW Strategic Plan & Funding

I am a member of the Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife’s Restoration & Enhancement Board.  A small portion of every commercial and recreational fishing license is set aside to spend on projects approved by the R&E board.  This volunteer position has been a wonderful experience and a great way to help direct projects in ways I believe will benefit anglers all over the state.  Our meeting last week was in Salem where we had the opportunity to speak with top leadership and get an overview of ODFW’s strategic plan.  I know that ODFW has a mixed reputation but I believe they are doing a good job given available resources, their broad mandate, and mixed constituencies.  I was also encouraged by the vision they laid out for the future.Read More »

Opal Springs Update

Thus far, 19 steelhead have swam from Lake Billy Chinook up the Opal Springs fish ladder into Lake Billy Chinook.  Historically, the greatest number of steelhead arrive at the Pelton Fish trap in January and February, so I certainly hope the numbers get even better.  Along with the steelhead, 90 rainbow, 53 whitefish, 10 brown trout, and one bull trout have been detected in the ladder, mostly moving upstream.  Connecting the Crooked River to the Deschutes and Metolius rivers is excellent news for these fish species as well.  So far, so good!