Deschutes River Conservancy
DRC worked with several landowners to transfer 0.87 cfs of senior water rights off of developing lands at the edge of Sisters (2012 – 2016). The Whychus Creek irrigation diversion was a fish barrier and difficult to manage, the small ditch did not transport the water effectively and the landowner with the largest water right was no longer interested in farming.
When the water was submitted for transfer, the 30+ acre property was seeded with native and dryland grasses to deter weeds. A few years later the diversion structure was removed and the riparian area restored by UDWC.
DRC staff take a morning each year to walk the previously irrigated property and pull noxious weeds. Each year of weed-pulling nets fewer and fewer noxious weeds, though it’s very beneficial to continue pulling as seeds continue to blow in from neighboring properties.
A huge thank you to DRC’s Gen Hubert (left) for organizing this event each year!
The Deschutes River brings so much to our lives. It inspires our runs, walks and rides. Its powerful waters work hard to bring life to our region, but we can live in Bend for many years without knowing how the devastating fluctuations in flows are affecting our river.
For the past two years, the DRC has been engaged in the Upper Deschutes Basin Study designed to develop strategies to meet long-term water needs for our rivers, irrigators and cities.
Over the last two years, the study team has generated a large body of information on the tools available to do this. The Basin Study Work Group (BSWG), a diverse group of stakeholders, co-manages this study with the Bureau of Reclamation. This summer, the BSWG will develop water management scenarios that package tools to generate and move water around to meet needs. In the fall, the Bureau of Reclamation will run these scenarios through its water resources model to help us understand which scenario best meets needs, and the group will evaluate factors like cost and timeliness. The study will wrap up a year from now and will provide the foundation for a broadly-supported long-term plan that takes care of long-standing river issues and our communities.
The McKay Water Rights Switch will restore natural flow to the middle reach of McKay Creek by allowing landowners in this reach to trade their private McKay Creek water rights for Ochoco Irrigation District (OID) water rights, sourced from Prineville Reservoir. In exchange for more reliable OID water, McKay landowners will transfer all 11.2 cfs of certificated McKay Creek water rights instream. Restoring the natural hydrograph in this reach of McKay Creek will provide critical habitat for salmon and steelhead, support Crook County’s rural agricultural economy by providing more reliable agricultural water to irrigators, and help stabilize OID’s assessment base for future urbanization by adding patrons. The McKay Creek Water Rights Switch will also provide a great opportunity for the DRC to work with local partners (such as the Crooked River Watershed Council) to remove remaining fish passage barriers along the Creek and restore riparian habitat. The DRC is in the process of signing a MOU with OID and will begin local outreach efforts this summer.
Ten years ago, Susan Lucky Higdon created unique artwork for the Deschutes River Conservancy’s first RiverFeast event. Susan painted the Deschutes River view from a beautiful property owned by former DRC board member Dr. Ray Tien where the first RiverFeast was held. Since that first painting, Susan has been working with Deschutes River Conservancy every year to create stunning, exclusive artwork used as invitations for RiverFeast. Her personalized approach to the event is what makes RiverFeast special and has become an element of the brand over the last ten years.
RiverFeast was traditionally held at a property right on the river, and each year it was in a different location. Throughout the years, Susan has painted on the Middle Deschutes, Mirror Pond, the Crooked River, and the Metolius. She has also provided archived images that fit a certain theme, like Farm to Table in 2014.
Susan used an aerial shot of the middle Deschutes by Marisa Hossick, for 2016’s “Deschutes Serpentine” and she painted from the headwaters at Little Lava Lake creating “The Source”, for this year’s event. These last two paintings, at 30″ x 40″, are major works and are auctioned during the evening.
According to Susan, being the signature artist for RiverFeast for ten years has allowed her to work closely with Deschutes River Conservancy. “I really appreciate the artistic freedom they have given me. They’ve been very open to my ideas. Painting the Deschutes River is something I am passionate about. It’s been great to be part of a team working together for the river that we all want to preserve and respect.”
Thank you Susan!
DRC’s Program Manager, Natasha Bellis, presented on a water rights panel last week at the Northwest Land Camp with fellow flow restoration colleagues Caylin Barter of The Freshwater Trust and Lisa Pelly and Jacquelyn of Trout Unlimited. Land Camp, offered by Coalition of Oregon Land Trusts and Washington Association of Land Trust, brings together regionally diverse interests focused on land conservation for three days of workshops and networking. Participants were eager to learn about how the Deschutes River Conservancy and the Deschutes Land Trust interact and integrate their work in the Deschutes Partnership.
This winter has been a refreshing change from the recent past. Central Oregon’s snowpack is 138% of average. Skiers are ecstatic and irrigators look forward to plentiful water supplies this summer as the snowpack melts and releases water into our rivers and reservoirs.
Historically, Central Oregon sees these large snow events from time to time. People have compared this past winter with that of 1993 or even 1996. What’s important to note is that these huge snow events do not happen regularly and we can’t plan on them.
When we get a significant snowpack, it’s a gift from nature. Much of that water makes its way down through highly permeable volcanic landscape and into the groundwater system. This groundwater then bubbles up as springs that recharge the Deschutes River, contributing 80% of its flow in the lower reaches of the Deschutes.
This special groundwater connection is one of the primary reasons why the Deschutes River is considered so unique.
Kate Fitzpatrick presented to students in a Desert Watershed Management class at OSU Cascades today. Drawing on the successful partnerships and restoration successes in Whychus Creek, the group discussed how to innovate on these tools and partnerships to solve broader river restoration and water management issues. “It’s exciting to see the next generation of natural resource managers so engaged,” Kate exclaimed after finishing the guest lecture.
Crooked River Stream Temperature Modeling
As part of the Deschutes Basin Study, Portland State University has developed a temperature model that assesses the relationship between reservoir levels, streamflow and stream temperature in the lower Crooked River. PSU walked through the baseline model with about thirty basin stakeholders in Prineville February 7th. The group agreed upon 3 different management scenarios to run through the model. The results will give basin stakeholders and water managers new information to help understand the temperature impacts of different scenarios for releasing additional water for fish and wildlife out of Prineville Reservoir.
Crooked River Dry-Year Planning Meeting
The Bureau of Reclamation, as part of the Crooked River Collaborative Water Security and Jobs Act of 2014, is tasked with developing a voluntary dry year management plan for the lower Crooked River. They held an initial meeting with interested stakeholders in Prineville today where they described reservoir operations, described the process for developing the dry year plan and invited written suggestions for voluntary actions that could be implemented to best benefit the Crooked River and its uses during a dry year when current Prineville Reservoir allocations cannot be met. Suggestions and comments are due to the Bend Field Office or Carolyn Chad at firstname.lastname@example.org by Friday, March 17, 2017. Reclamation will keep us posted on subsequent meetings to further discuss these concepts.
Last night, the Coalition for the Deschutes and the Farmer’s Conservation Alliance (FCA) presented to an audience of about 50 people at the downtown branch of the Deschutes Public Library. FCA helped community members understand how modernizing irrigation practices in Central Oregon benefits farmers and local rivers, which ultimately benefits our community. FCA has considerable experience installing fish screens and modernizing irrigation districts in the Hood River area. They are enthusiastic about opportunities to partner with the Deschutes River Conservancy, Coalition for the Deschutes, local irrigation districts and other regional partners to help restore streamflow to the Deschutes River. This program was part of an ongoing series hosted by the Coalition for the Deschutes to raise awareness of the issues facing the Deschutes River. Learn more about these challenges and the collaborative solutions now being developed through the Basin Study Work Group.
Learn how one Culver-area ranch has reduced their water need
Ranch Facts at At a Glance
- 1989 to present
- 620 irrigated acres
- Hybrid carrot seed, Kentucky bluegrass seed, peppermint oil, wheat, alfalfa and grass hay
- 2 family operators, 2-3 full-time employees + seasonal labor
The Richard Family Story
Marty and Nancy Richards purchased 350 acres near Madras and began farming full time in 1989. Prior to that, they had lived and worked near Portland and grew hay and raised cattle in their spare time on a small 20 acre farm.
When they moved to Madras their three children (Gary, Katie and Kevin, ages 11, 9 and 6 at the time) contributed to the farm: picking rocks, changing irrigation and eventually operating equipment and taking on more responsibility. The three kids became active participants in 4-H and FFA, and Marty and Nancy became active volunteers, resulting in the family being awarded the Oregon State Fair Farm Family of the Year in 1994.
Currently, the Richards family grows hybrid carrot seed, Kentucky bluegrass seed, peppermint oil, wheat and hay on 620 irrigated acres. Their interest in sustainable practices has led them to implement technology such as drip irrigation, Scientific Irrigation Scheduling (SIS) and wireless irrigation monitoring to improve water use efficiency. Installing GPS systems on tractors has improved production efficiency and reduced fuel consumption. They also use no-till and minimum tillage practices in their crop rotation as frequently as possible and they’ve begun incorporating cover crops to improve soil health and reduce fertilizer and chemical use.
The family’s farming roots still run deep. Eldest son Gary moved with his wife and three girls to a home on the family farm so his children can experience farm life. Kevin, along with his wife and two sons, has purchased the property next door and moved back to Madras to farm full-time. Daughter Katie and her husband Brent live just over the mountain in Hillsboro, where she works for Intel.
(provided by the Richards Family)
Kevin Richards was recently honored with an Oregon Farm Bureau Top Hand Award during the 84th Oregon Farm Bureau Annual Meeting in Salem for his leadership on many critical ag issues at the county level and for his work to connect local students with agriculture.
Ranch Improvements and Benefits
The Richards family began making improvements on Fox Hollow Ranch in 1989, when they purchased the property, and continue today. These investments include: piping, ponds, improvements to soil, pumps, irrigation, and the modernization of equipment and practices.
These changes and investments have produced returns by reducing fertilizer, fuel and pesticide needs, while improving efficiencies and productivity. The sustainable practices utilized by Fox Hollow Ranch produce savings in water, energy, labor, and other inputs.
Annual water use per acre under current practices: 2 acre feet per acre
Contact Gen Hubert at the Deschutes River Conservancy for great ideas on how to use less water in your growing season.