Streamflow Restoration Accomplishments in the Deschutes Basin

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Since 1996, the DRC has accomplished more than any other streamflow restoration group in the Northwestern United States.

Historically, nearly 90% of the streamflow from the Deschutes River in Bend was diverted through irrigation canals during the irrigation season. These diversions caused a dramatic reduction of streamflow in the middle reach of the Deschutes River, between Bend and Lake Billy Chinook.

Through the years, the Deschutes River Conservancy has worked with irrigation districts and other partners to create a more efficient water delivery system to allow more water to remain instream. As a result of our collaborative approach, this section of the Deschutes River has seen a five-fold increase in streamflow during the hot summer months. The improvement to the health of the river, as well as to the resident fish and wildlife, has been dramatic.

Restoration and Reintroduction Milestones in the Deschutes Basin

An unprecedented effort is underway in the Deschutes Basin to reintroduce steelhead and salmon. Since the Pelton Round Butte Hydro-Electric Project was built in the 1960s, these anadromous fish have been blocked from the Deschutes Basin above the dams. Over the past several years, the DRC and our partners have been working to restore and maintain the watershed conditions necessary for successful salmon and steelhead reintroduction. 

2011 was a very encouraging year for these reintroduction efforts. In early 2011, Portland General Electric, The Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs Reservation and the State of Oregon celebrated the return of the first adult steelhead from the 2007 reintroduction. Additionally, major flow restoration milestones were achieved on both Whychus Creek and the Crooked River.

A healthy watershed and a thriving ecosystem are the keys to our future here in the Deschutes Basin. When we have healthy rivers, streams and lakes, we know we can support the diverse needs of people and wildlife.

 

Protected Streamflow in the Deschutes Basin:

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Whychus Creek: Permanent Restoration Achieved

Whychus Creek, flowing through the town of Sisters, historically ran dry during the irrigation season. This caused fish and wildlife populations to suffer. The DRC has worked with Three Sisters Irrigation District and Oregon Water Resources Department to implement a series of water conservation projects and water rights transfers that will eventually protect over 20 cubic feet per second (cfs) of instream water rights in the creek. Maintaining a healthy year-round flow in the creek is vital to efforts currently underway to restore salmon and steelhead to Whychus Creek.

 

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Basin Study Work Group: Water Management Planning for the Future

The DRC’s Water Management Planning Program designs the next generation of water management projects to help stakeholders in the Deschutes Basin resolve long-standing water management issues. The DRC and our partners are now underway with the Upper Deschutes Basin Study.

The Basin Study is a $1.5 million process, in partnership with the Bureau of Reclamation, that will provide a road map to meet water needs for rivers, agriculture and communities for the next 50 years. It includes a climate change analysis to ensure that we are planning for future conditions. The study builds on previous planning work in the basin, including the Deschutes Water Planning Initiative, and is expected to be complete in 2018.

The Study encompasses the upper Deschutes, Whychus and Crooked sub-basins, and it’s particularly focused on finding solutions to restore flows in the Upper Deschutes River.​