Middle Deschutes Flows

On January 31 the Deschutes River Conservancy announced that they had secured funding from Intel Corporation to help with their middle Deschutes summer water leasing program. Without the DRC’s various efforts, including the leasing program, the middle Deschutes below Bend would be virtually dry in the summer.  Additional funding for the leasing program is welcome news but requires some context. 

Flows in the Deschutes above Bend are controlled by irrigation districts who withhold water to fill reservoirs in the winter and release water in the summer which is then diverted into a series of irrigation canals.  The last major diversion is located at the North Canal Dam in Bend just upriver from the Riverhouse.  During irrigation season the Deschutes below this dam is reduced to a relative trickle, dramatically damaging the ecosystem for fish and wildlife. Read More »

My Bull Trout Fishing Prediction

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This is not a fishing blog, but every now and then I will post something along those lines.  For a few years now I have been chasing bull trout on Lake Billy Chinook using fly gear.  It’s challenging but can be rewarding.  Above is a photo of one of my sons with a nice bull trout.  There are a lot of variables at play, but it looks like we could have a good and early season.  Here’s what I have been looking at. Read More »

Willamette Falls Fish Ladder

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Last week I had the opportunity to tour the Willamette Falls fish ladder as a member of the ODFW Restoration & Enhancement Board.  There has been extensive coverage, including posts on this blog, about sea lion predation on anadromous fish at this ladder, to the extent that steelhead runs were at short term risk of extinction.  ODFW is now euthanizing the most problematic pinnipeds.  Less publicity has been given to the fact that the fish ladder itself is in danger of structural failure.Read More »

Crooked River Water Outlook

Here is a recent report from the Bureau of Reclamation on the water outlook for Prineville Reservoir.  As you can see on page 3, a few days ago the reservoir was 35% full and flows into the Crooked River were only 49 cfs (47 cfs today), which is below the target set by ODFW for fish needs and the 80 cfs target in the Crooked River legislation.  In summary, the BOR presentation implies that the outlook is not promising for the reservoir to fill which means flows into the Crooked River next winter after irrigation season ends will also likely be low.  Keep reading for some commentary on the presentation prepared by BOR.Read More »

Bulletin Column on Water Rights

Yesterday George Weurthner had a worthwhile letter to the editor in the Bulletin on water rights.  I agree with his comments, here’s my 2 cents.  Over 100 years ago, when Central Oregon was mostly unsettled wilderness, the state gave away water rights, not water ownership which remains with the public, in an effort to create a local, agricultural based economy.  Today, our area is booming and agriculture in Deschutes County is a minor and decreasing component of our economy.  Nevertheless, irrigators continue to divert 90% of the water in the upper Deschutes Basin.  It is well past time to reallocate the public’s water using a modern definition of beneficial use.  It is possible to maintain water rights for irrigators who are truly using it for agriculture, provide for other irrigators willing to pay a market price, while supporting the growth of our modern economy, ensuring municipal water supplies, and restoring our public water ways.

Two Good Reads

As I say in the “About” section of this blog, I believe that WaterWatch is the most important water conservation organization in Oregon.  They have done amazing work to restore flows, breach dams, and protect groundwater.  Their latest newsletter is well worth reading.  The Osprey is an excellent, research-based publication for anyone interested in anadromous fish in the Pacific Northwest and beyond.  The September issue is filled with great data, including the statement that the full cost of every hatchery steelhead returning to the Columbia Basin is on the order of $1,000, while degrading the opportunity for wild fish to recover.  I have read this issue a couple of times now and underlined much of it.

Middle Deschutes Mismanagement

Today the US Fish & Wildlife Service held a public update meeting on the Habitat Conservation Plan status.  I’ve written extensively on the HCP in this blog but, briefly, it is an application by Central Oregon irrigation districts and the City of Prineville to continue to withdraw water from local rivers while incidentally “taking” (killing) endangered species like bull trout, steelhead, and the Oregon Spotted Frog.  The meeting had a wealth of information but the shocker for me was an admission by the irrigation districts that they have been badly mismanaging flows in the middle Deschutes.Read More »