Fish Passage Waiver at Bowman Dam? Not so fast.

Bowman Dam

Bowman Dam was completed by the US Bureau of Reclamation (BoR) in 1961, damming the Crooked River and creating Prineville reservoir.  It was built to protect development downstream from flooding, including the City of Prineville, and to provide water for Ochoco Irrigation District (OID) who operates the dam.  While these are worthy goals, Bowman Dam has also caused significant environmental damage.  OID, Prineville, and Crook County would now like to add a small hydroelectric facility to the base of Bowman Dam and are asking for a waiver to the State of Oregon requirement that fish passage be provided at dams undergoing significant changes.  This is a complex issue, below are my thoughts.  The waiver application, supporting documents, and analysis by the Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife can be found here.  Public comment on the waiver application is being accepted until June 22nd.Read More »

Opal Springs Fish Ladder Update

The fish ladder at Opal Springs has proven remarkably successful.  Since it became operational late November through the end of April, thousands of fish from a variety of species have been filmed and identified as moving through it.  Suckers and whitefish have moved up from Lake Billy Chinook for spawning.  Rainbow, brown, and bull trout have traveled upriver most likely foraging for food.  While the primary motivation for installing the fish ladder was to facilitate the reintroduction of salmon and steelhead, the ladder has also provided much needed connectivity between the Crooked, Metolius, and Middle Deschutes rivers.  An improved ecosystem will be the result.  Below is the breakdown by species.Read More »

Largescale Suckers

Sucker

The latest report from Opal Springs says that over 1,000 largescale suckers moved through the fish passage the last 2 weeks of March.  I don’t know anything about these fish so did some web searches and asked Brett Hodgson, ODFW Deschutes District Fish Biologist, about them.  It turns out that some people like to fish for them, and they taste good.  Brett emailed me that “suckers historically were an important source of protein for Native Americans in periods when salmon were not available”.  I may have to target them with a sinking line and an egg pattern someday.Read More »

Upper Basin Steelhead Return Update

Believe it or not, if you look at the individual fish count numbers on the PGE website for past years, summer steelhead season in the upper most stretches of the Deschutes extends to the end of April.  Some of these fish really take their time to get to their final destination.  So, while the return season is not over, we are getting close.  As of March 6th, 53 steelhead have been passed above the dams into Lake Billy Chinook.  47 of those were recently counted via radio tags, 22 in the Crooked River, and 3 in the Crooked arm of Lake Billy Chinook, presumably getting ready to head up the river.  This once again shows the importance of the fish ladder at Opal Springs.

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!

Opal Springs Passage is Working!

The new Opal Springs fish ladder became operational on Nov. 15 and an automated fish detection system was installed 4 days later.  In the first 13 days (11/19 to 12/1) 23 trout, 28 whitefish, and 3 steelhead have been counted.  That’s an excellent start.