BEND, Ore. - In mid-October, Central Oregonians will again come together as a community, determined to do something about the ongoing seasonal streamflow challenges facing the upper Deschutes River with what's become a traditional fall fish rescue.
Each fall, streamflows in the Upper Deschutes from Wickiup Reservoir to Bend are reduced to refill reservoirs for the following irrigation season.
A collaborative fish rescue planning effort is currently underway involving eight irrigation districts, the Deschutes River Conservancy, the Bend Chapter of Trout Unlimited, the Coalition for the Deschutes and dozens of volunteers from the community.
The effort involves electro-shocking, then collecting fish stranded in pools along a side channel of the Deschutes River near Lava Island Falls and relocating them to the main river channel.
“Though there is value in the community working together to rescue stranded fish, the fish salvage is a symptom of bigger river management problem and is not sustainable year after year,” said Mike Tripp, board member of Bend’s Trout Unlimited chapter. “The real solution for these fish lies in the implementation of a large-scale restoration plan for the upper Deschutes River.”
Irrigation districts are working with federal agencies on a Habitat Conservation Plan to address the problem. As a part of a 2016 settlement agreement for the Oregon spotted frog, the irrigation districts have committed the first 100 cubic feet per second (cfs) of streamflow to be released every winter from Wickiup Reservoir.
“Piping leaky irrigation district canals is the single greatest opportunity to improve flows,” said Central Oregon Irrigation District Manager Craig Horrell. “As piping projects are completed, Central Oregon Irrigation District will file conserved water applications, transferring senior water rights to North Unit Irrigation District, reducing NUID’s dependence on Wickiup during the summer months for irrigation, allowing water to pass through Wickiup during the winter months, increasing the upper Deschutes River flows November through March.”
About the Deschutes Redbands Trout Unlimited Chapter
The Deschutes Redbands Trout Unlimited chapter currently has over 600 members dedicated to working with all organizations in the area to improve the Upper Deschutes Watershed. These goals are rooted in our desire to conserve, protect, restore and advocate for Central Oregon coldwater fisheries and the watersheds that support them. Deschutes Redbands Trout Unlimited Chapter
About the Coalition for the Deschutes
The mission of the Coalition for the Deschutes is to bring the wild back to our river so that fish, wildlife, and people can thrive. Coalition for the Deschutes
About the Deschutes River Conservancy (DRC)
The Deschutes River Conservancy was founded in 1996 as collaborative, multi-stakeholder 501(c)3 non-profit organization with the mission to restore streamflow and improve water quality in the Deschutes Basin. The Board of Directors is comprised of key public and private interests including federal, state, local government, irrigation, development, hydro-power, recreation, tribes, and environment. Deschutes River Conservancy
About the DBBC
The Deschutes Basin Board of Control represents eight irrigation districts in Oregon’s Deschutes Basin. The districts supply water throughout the Deschutes Basin to 8,700 patrons across 155,662 acres. The districts work in partnership with conservation groups and local, state and federal agencies to increase instream flows in rivers and creeks, while improving fisheries passage and ecologically important habitat. Since 2000, the districts have increased instream flows by nearly 80,000 acre-feet in the Deschutes River, Little Deschutes River, Ochoco Creek, Whychus Creek, Tumalo Creek and Crescent Creek, benefiting salmon, steelhead, bull trout, Oregon spotted frog and other species. For more information on the irrigation districts and their conservation efforts, visit dbbcirrigation.com.