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 »
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.
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.
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 »
Today the Bend Bulletin ran a story on climate change’s impact to local rivers and I was one of the people quoted. I am always frustrated with the experience of spending time discussing an issue in depth and seeing cursory coverage as a result. I respect work the reporter does for the paper and understand that space is limited but there is so much more to say. Oh well. The good news is the article does capture the big picture and hopefully adds to the general awareness of global warming’s current local impact, not sometime in the future. That being said, I do have one quibble with the story.Read More »
Here’s the latest graph of flows in the middle Deschutes below North Dam in Bend near the Riverhouse. On November 26 the river got down to 63.8 cfs. On a relative basis, that’s worse than 20 cfs in the upper Deschutes below Wickiup. Years of discussion and “cooperation” at the Basin Study Work Group between the irrigators, government agencies, and various other groups has made no improvement in how the river is managed. For the second time this year the irrigators have killed the middle Deschutes (visit the prior post for a more detailed discussion of this topic).
For years, the Crooked River has been plagued by periodic fish kills. There have been two culprits: sustained low flows, especially when combined with freezing temperatures in the winter, and excess total dissolved gases. TDG is not as well known as low flows but it can be equally deadly. A solution in the form of a new hydroelectric facility may be in the future.Read More »