After 10 years of effort it is clear that the current approach to reintroducing anadromous fish into the upper Deschutes Basin above the Pelton Round Butte project is not producing acceptable results. Fisheries managers acknowledge this but often state that it will take more time. They reply that it has been over 50 years since these fish were cut off from their traditional spawning grounds and reintroduction is a complex problem. This is true, but I believe the current dire state of steelhead returns to the Deschutes River should provide impetus to take bolder action. This is a long post, but worth reading if you care about the future of steelhead in the Deschutes River.Read More »
(I stole the photo of Camp Polk Meadow Preserve and Whychus Creek from the Deschutes Land Trust website. Photo credit: Russ McMillan.)
When the reintroduction effort began a major focus was the restoration of Whychus Creek, a tributary of the middle Deschutes. The thought was that steelhead in particular would target Whychus as they are not native to the Metolius and the Crooked River is blocked by Opal Springs Dam. Restoring Whychus Creek would also provide dramatically improved habitat for wild, native species, in particular redband trout. This restoration effort was spearheaded by the Deschutes Partnership who purchased sections of the creek for restoration, worked on restoring flows, and performed habitat improvement, along with state and federal agencies. It was and continues to be a long-term, expensive effort. Some progress has been made but there’s still a long way to go.Read More »
Last week was the annual Pelton Round Butte Fisheries Workshop. Once again, it was an information filled conference with presentations covering a wide range of fisheries issues encompassing the entire Deschutes Basin. I am going to spend a few weeks digging into some of the presentations, I have many follow up questions for some of the presenters, but there were a few topics that are quick and easy to report on, like Opal Springs fish passage.Read More »
This afternoon I was able to tour the Deschutes Land Trust’s new Ochoco Preserve. The preserve is currently farmland just outside Prineville that will be converted to wetlands over the next decade or so. It is where McKay and Ochoco Creeks meet the Crooked River. The potential for new, high quality habitat for native redband trout is very exciting. These creeks were also important spawning areas for anadromous Chinook salmon and steelhead and may be again once the fish ladder at Opal Springs Dam is complete. I encourage you to visit the DLT’s site, learn more, and become a member if you are able.
The Deschutes River 2017/2018 summer steelhead season still has a few weeks left but returns have been bleak. As of the end of January 2018 only 13 upper basin origin steelhead have been captured in the Pelton trap a little upstream from the Warm Springs Bridge, and none in December. This will likely be the lowest return year since upper basin returns began in 2011.Read More »
After years of effort the final funding for a volitional fish ladder at Opal Springs Dam was obtained earlier this month. There are some regulatory hurdles remaining but construction should begin in the spring and be complete within two years. Opal Springs is a small hydroelectric facility owned by Deschutes Valley Water District about a quarter mile up the Crooked River from where it enters Lake Billy Chinook. Downstream fish passage has been available, mostly through the turbines, but not upstream passage.Read More »