Rising water is flooding the property of a few residents living along the Deschutes River south of Sunriver, but Mother Nature is not responsible. The water levels are controlled by the Deschutes Basin watermaster.
“It all happened overnight,” said Michael Hamersly, a part-time resident in the Oregon Water Wonderland community,
He and his neighbors saw the water in the canal behind their house rise to record levels in the past few days.
“We were laughing that if somebody would have been camping, they would have been pretty wet,” Hamersly added.
Not all residents are laughing, however. Phil Alves is a full-time resident in the area, and his boat dock is submerged underwater.
“It’s an uncomforting feeling,” Alves said. “Our concern is with the rising water and how many cubic feet per-second they’re letting out of Wickiup Reservoir. This could present an imminent danger to our property."
The Deschutes River is regulated to provide water to farmers across Central Oregon. The dry weather and string of 90s last week has boosted farmers' needs and required more water to be routed into the Deschutes, leaving many residents on edge.
“I think this water issue needs to be addressed," Alves said. "So far, we’ve only received a message, as I said, saying there is nothing they can do about it. Frankly, I don’t believe that.”
Deschutes Basin Watermaster Jeremy Giffin said Friday it is difficult to balance between the need of farmers and the level of the river.
“I do respond to the complaints as they come in,” he said. “We do take the flooding complaints very seriously. However, we do have to respond to the legal rights of the Deschutes River and the stored water in Wickiup, and we do need to release the water when it’s called upon by the legal water right holder.”
Giffin says he understands that Oregon Water Wonderland residents see the effects of his decisions directly.
“Something that I’ve tried to do over the last couple days is to release more water from Crescent Lake Reservoir in the upper basin and bring that water down to the Little Deschutes River into the big Deschutes River, and therefore bypassing the main flooding area,” Giffin said.
Giffin said they plan to reduce the amount of water flowing out of Wickiup Reservoir, starting on Monday.