What about Water Quality in the Habitat Conservation Plan?

20190322_171726

Last June, Portland General Electric released a comprehensive, multiyear water quality study of Lake Billy Chinook, the rivers that supply it, and the lower Deschutes River into which water is released.  Among other things, the report showed that the Crooked River contains significant amounts of pollution.  This pollution combined with sunlight generates suspended algae on the surface of Lake Billy Chinook which is subsequently released into Lake Simtutus and then the lower Deschutes River.  Algae blooms are increasing in occurrence, leading the Oregon Health Authority to warn last June that “harmful algae blooms” could “routinely develop in the lake”.

One of the shortcomings in the Habitat Conservation Plan is lack of adequate consideration for water quality.  Clearly, high temperatures and pollution can have adverse impacts on fish and the aquatic environment, including mortality (“take”).  Irrigation return flows are “covered activities” but the HCP does not adequately examine impacts on water quality from agricultural runoff or provide for minimum standards in covered waterways.Read More »

Good News for Crooked River Flows this Winter

OneThree federal agencies (Bureau of Reclamation, National Marine Fisheries Service, and US Fish & Wildlife) manage water releases out of Prineville Reservoir into the Crooked River.  As of last week, they believe flows for fish and wildlife can be maintained through the winter.  Prineville Reservoir has a capacity of 148,640 acre feet of water, approximately half of which is guaranteed for irrigation. Water in excess of that at the beginning of irrigation season is “fish water” to be released for the “maximum biological benefit” for fish and wildlife.  Irrigation season ends in a month and Prineville Reservoir is still 66% full, leaving plenty of fish water to release during the winter.  Keep reading for more details.Read More »

DRA Opinion Piece Response

The July 24th Source Weekly contained a guest column by Greg McMillan, president of the Deschutes River Alliance, that needs a response.  It is absolutely true that attempts to reintroduce salmon and steelhead into the upper Deschutes basin above Lake Billy Chinook have been extremely disappointing.  It is important to understand, however, that adult returns for salmon and steelhead have been plunging in the entire Columbia River basin and much of the Pacific Northwest.  The truth is that many anadromous fish runs are on the path to extinction due to habitat loss, dams, over harvest, hatcheries, and the heating of the Pacific which has led to the collapse of the food web in many areas.    This has nothing to do with local reintroduction efforts.Read More »

Fisheries Workshop Highlights

The 25th annual Pelton Round Butte Fisheries Workshop was the past two days.  I have been going for years and, as usual, it was an overwhelming amount of information.  I plan to follow up with some of the presenters to get a better understanding of their data and hope to have more detailed posts soon.  In the meantime, here’s a quick list of the highlights from my perspective.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 »

ODFW’s Comments on OID’s PAD

Well, that’s an acronym filled title.  Here are Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife’s comments on Ochoco Irrigation District’s Pre-Application Document to build a hydro electric facility on Bowman Dam.  It’s 37 pages and filled with questions about how the facility and it’s transmissions lines will impact fish and wildlife on the Crooked River.  Some are pretty basic, like how will flows be ramped up and down so as to not negatively impact fish?  Even a cursory reading shows that it is far too early in the process to give a blanket endorsement to this project, even if you agree (like I do) that the idea seems to have merit.Read More »

Is Central Oregon Flyfishers Betraying the Angling Community?

As I wrote about last November, Ochoco Irrigation District is in the preliminary stages of applying for a FERC license to add a hydroelectric plant to Bowman Dam.  Here is OID’s “Pre-Application Document“.  The first of multiple comment periods ends on Monday.  There is a significant amount of design work left to be done, studies that need to be undertaken, and many unanswered questions about how this project will impact the Crooked River below Prineville Reservoir.  A fair amount of negotiation will need to take place between OID and various agencies before final approval is granted.  Nevertheless, the latest Central Oregon Flyfisher newsletter states that the board voted to send a letter of support for the project which will include language that throws away the most important bargaining chip for the conservation community.Read More »