Archives : 2017 : January
Frogs and flows were the topic of conversation on Tuesday night for a packed house at McMenamins. The Coalition for the Deschutes hosted a community education program presented by Jason Gritzner of the US Forest Service and Jennifer O’Reilly of the US Department of Fish and Wildlife Services.
Jason Gritzner presented flow and riparian studies from the Upper Deschutes River that span the past 60 years starting from the completion of Crane Prairie and Wickiup Reservoirs. Prior to the construction of Wickiup Dam, flows in the spring-fed Deschutes River varied little between seasons and years. Historically, flows in the summer averaged 730 cubic feet per second (cfs) and dropped to an average of 660 cfs in the winter. Today flows fluctuate dramatically between an average of 1800 cfs in the summer and a minimum of 20 cfs in the winter storage season. This new flow pattern creates significant challenges for a river that was not built for fluctuations, including significant erosion that has resulted in a widening of the channel by about 20% and a straightening of the channel. This winter, as a part of the Oregon Spotted Frog Settlement, irrigators have agreed to increase minimum winter flows to 100 cfs.
Jennifer O’Reilly informed last night’s seminar attendees about the lifecycle, breeding needs and habitat requirements of the Oregon spotted frog. The frog was listed as a Threatened Species in 2014 under the Endangered Species Act. Environmental groups have filed litigation to restore flows in the Upper Deschutes to protect frog habitat. The fluctuations in streamflow resulting from irrigation fulfillment in the summer and storage in the winter have created a difficult environment for the frogs to thrive.
To conclude the evening, Jason Gritzner highlighted the connection between the plight of the Oregon spotted frog and the overall health of the river. Because amphibians are considered an environmental indicator species, a distressed population confirms distress in the overall ecosystem in the Upper Deschutes.
Want to learn more? There are more community leaning opportunities to come! Click to see the list and RSVP links.
This week, the Deschutes River Conservancy helped welcome the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board (OWEB) to the Deschutes Basin and attended OWEB’s quarterly board meeting in Madras. The Deschutes Partnership and partner organizations (DRC, the Deschutes Land Trust, Upper Deschutes watershed Council and the Crooked River Watershed Council) reported to OWEB board members on its experience with OWEB’s Focused Investment Partnership (FIP) program. OWEB awarded the Deschutes Partnership $4M through the FIP program over the 2015-2017 biennium to help restore the physical and biological conditions necessary for successful anadromous fish reintroduction in the Deschutes Basin. DRC used funding from this grant to support its work on Whychus Creek with Three Sisters Irrigation District and to increase streamflow on McKay Creek, a tributary to the Crooked River. DRC is grateful to OWEB for its support of our work over the years. OWEB’s significant investment in the Deschutes Partnership has helped to leverage resources and increase the pace and scale of restoration in the Deschtues Basin.
Do you want to play a more active role in local environmental issues this year? The best way you can help the river is to learn about the problem and support the organizations working to protect it. Here are several upcoming community learning opportunities to help you navigate the complex issues facing the Deschutes River and its tributaries.
Feb 1 | OSF and Related Initials: The Oregon Spotted Frog Legal and Policy Story
6:30 – 7:30 pm
OSF, NEPA, HCP, ITP…If you’re scratching your head about the nuts and bolts of the Oregon Spotted Frog lawsuit – what happened, where are we today, what’s next, and what do the initials and acronyms stand for – this is your opportunity get your questions answered. RSVP requested.
Feb 3 | Overview of the Deschutes River Basin: Science, Water Law, the Challenges and Potential Solutions
1:30 – 3:30 pm @ The Oregon Duck Store
Kyle Gorman of the Oregon Water Resources Department will give an overview of how water is managed in the Deschutes Basin and the geology in Central Oregon. He will also discuss how water is used in the region and the role water rights is playing in today’s water issues. Only 20 spots available. RSVP required. Please email email@example.com
Feb 6 | Farmers Conservation Alliance: Connecting the dots between irrigation modernization, our environment, and our community
6:30 – 7:30 pm
Farmers Conservation Alliance is a nonprofit organization working throughout the western US, including Central Oregon, to modernize irrigation for the benefit of agriculture, the environment and community. Learn about irrigation modernization and its role in restoring healthy flows to the Upper Deschutes River. RSVP requested.
Feb 17 | Environmental Issues on the Deschutes River
1:30 – 3:30 pm @ The Oregon Duck Store
Ryan Houston, the Executive Director of the Upper Deschutes Watershed Council will speak on topics including native fish, the Oregon spotted frog, riparian issues, the Endangered Species Act, the Habitat Conservation Plan and the human impacts on the river. Kate Fitzpatrick, Program Director for the Deschutes River Conservancy will speak about the Basin Study Work Group and the collaborative planning process to solve water supply issues in the Deschutes Basin moving into the future. Only 20 spots available. RSVP required. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org
Feb 23 | The Return of the River: Film and panel discussion
6:30 – 8:30 pm
This award-winning film tells the story of a remarkable campaign to set the Elwha River free. It is an unlikely success story for environmental and cultural restoration that offers hope and possibility for a more sustainable future. The film will be followed by a panel discussion about river restoration with the director/cinematographer and two research scientists who worked on the project. RSVP required.
March 3 | Irrigation in the High Desert: Perspectives on Water Use from North Unit Irrigation District and Central Oregon Irrigation District
1:30 – 3:30 pm
Mike Britton (North Unit Irrigation District), Craig Horrell (Central Oregon Irrigation District) and Patrick Griffiths (City of Bend) will discuss topics including farming, municipal needs, water challenges, opportunities, and solutions for irrigation districts and the river. Only 20 spots available. RSVP required. Please email email@example.com
This week we are celebrating our longstanding partnership with Marc Thalacker and his 20th anniversary as Manager of the Three Sisters Irrigation District. Marc’s vision, will and determination were instrumental in the achievement of historic change for Whychus Creek and the district. In 1999, when Mid-Columbia Steelhead became ESA listed species, Marc assessed the threat and embraced an aggressive plan to restore Whychus Creek and protect his district. Marc worked closely with his board, patrons and stakeholders to pipe the district’s canal conserving and restoring 14.32 cfs (soon 1.16 more) to Whychus Creek while providing pressurized water to his patrons. The DRC has invested more than $10 million in the district’s canal piping over the past 6 years and the district will be fully piped by next year. As a result, Whychus Creek is one of the few places in Oregon where the state’s minimum streamflows have been achieved. Thank you Marc for our great partnership and wonderful success story.
Upper Deschutes River
The Basin Study Work Group is a basin wide collaborative working to restore flows in critical reaches such as the Upper Deschutes for the past 2 years. This year, the group is identifying the specifics of new water management solutions for the Upper Deschutes Basin. These include water conservation, water marketing, new storage options, and new ways to re-balance water between rivers, farms and cities. Bureau of Reclamation will model these solutions to help us understand how well they meet instream and out of stream needs under different climate change scenarios. This work will be complete spring of 2018. We are looking forward to then making large scale agreements that will guide the sustainable management and use of water moving into the future.
We are moving forward in our partnership with Ochoco Irrigation District to develop the McKay Creek Water Rights Switch. This project would restore natural flow to McKay Creek in exchange for providing landowners irrigation water rights from Ochoco Irrigation District. Increased flows will improve habitat and water quality for summer steelhead and redband trout, and will increase fish access to 37 miles of stream in McKay Creek.
Phase Eight of the Three Sisters Irrigation District Main Canal begins this winter. This phase will pipe another 4,400 feet and protect an additional 1 cfs instream. With the completion of Phase Eight, the project will include 8.27 miles of piped canal yielding 14.32 cubic feet per second (cfs) of conserved water–all of which is protected instream. This increase in streamflows will help meet minimum streamflow targets from April through October to improve conditions for reintroduced steelhead, Chinook salmon, and native redband trout from the diversion to the mouth of Whychus Creek.