Streamflow Restoration Accomplishments in the Deschutes Basin


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 ​​since 2004:





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.



Crooked River: Largest Water Conservation Project in Oregon’s History

In 2012, we broke ground with North Unit Irrigation District on the first phase of the largest streamflow restoration initiative in Oregon’s history. When completed, this initiative will restore up to 220 cubic feet per second of streamflow to the Crooked River running through Smith Rock State Park. This reach of the Crooked River has historically suffered from poor water quality and a degraded ecosystem. This initiative will benefit the region’s agricultural economy while permanently improving conditions for fish, wildlife, and recreation.