Category : Programs
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.
We are here because we love the Deschutes River. Our local rivers give life to an otherwise arid, high desert climate. No matter who we are, we are all connected to the river, and therefore, to each other.
By working together with farmers, fisherman and urban communities, we have done great things.
Central Oregon’s rivers have seen some hopeful successes in 2016. We’d like to thank our partners, supporters and funders who have helped:
- Restore water back to the Middle Deschutes. Through your support of our Leasing Program, 2135 acres and 10,180 acre-feet of water were protected instream from April through October, with protected peak flows of up to 31.15 cfs from mid-May to mid-September.
- Increase Minimum Winter Flows in the Upper Deschutes. The Oregon Spotted Frog Settlement Agreement has ensured a permanent increase in winter flows raising the minimum from 20 cfs to 100 cfs. This is a first step toward further flow restoration we hope to accomplish through continued partnership and collaboration within the basin.
- Improve Conditions for Salmon and Steelhead in Whychus Creek. Increased flows through piping and partner-led habitat restoration work have improved summer flows for Salmon and Steelhead in Whychus Creek.
We want to sincerely thank all of you who have supported the Deschutes River this year. We need the river—and now, the river needs us. We pledge to work together to care for the river today and for generations to come!
Join us in continuing to restore the Deschutes River and its tributaries in 2017. By working together, we really can do great things!
Up to 90% of the water used in Central Oregon supports local agriculture. Much of the irrigation system was developed more than 100 years ago with technology that’s now outdated.
Today, the DRC works closely with local irrigation districts and other partners to improve and update water use efficiency in Central Oregon — restoring much-needed water to our rivers and streams.
Modest changes can yield impressive results. Nearly half of the water now protected in the Deschutes River, Whychus Creek and the Crooked River is the result of piping only 7% of the canal system. To visualize total restored flows, imagine more than eight Olympic-sized swimming pools per hour pouring back into Central Oregon’s rivers and streams!
Healthy rivers are important to both the ecosystem and to our community. We’re working with our partners to find new ways to balance water use and meet all of our needs, particularly in the river. To achieve this, we will need to employ new tools, such as water management agreements, and existing tools, such as water rights leasing, in-stream water transfers, and piping and lining canals. We believe that if we collectively re-think how we use water, everyone can benefit — including the river and irrigated agriculture.
In the past year, DRC and our partners have improved fish habitat in the Crooked River by ensuring streamflows up to six times greater than they had been in the past. We expect to improve those streamflows even more in the near future.
In Sisters, spawning grounds in Whychus Creek are primed for reintroduced steelhead spawning, thanks to new standard flows which now meet the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife’s recommendation for a thriving fishery and ecosystem.
Steelhead have access to two more miles of increased flows in Whychus Creek thanks to a collaborative project with theUpper Deschutes Watershed Counciland other partners.Watch the time lapse video of the dam removal.
Whychus Creek in Sisters has made a huge comeback in the past several years through the collaborative efforts of the Deschutes River Conservancy (streamflow), Three Sisters Irrigation District (TSID – water conservation), the Upper Deschutes Watershed Council (fish passage & habitat) and the Deschutes Land Trust (land conservation).
Long-time Central Oregon residents will remember Whychus Creek running dry in the summer months, severely impacting native fish populations. Since we started flow restoration efforts in Whychus, the creek now almost meets the State’s minimum flow requirement of 33 cubic feet per second (cfs). Increased flows of cool water are going a long way to restore stream conditions that support the successful reintroduction of salmon and steelhead in Whychus Creek.
Much of this restoration work has been achieved through creating a more efficient irrigation system for TSID. By piping their leaking canal system, TSID is able to restore flows to the creek while delivering pressurized water to its farming and ranching patrons, reducing or eliminating their pumping costs.
The fourth phase in TSID’s ongoing initiative to completely pipe its system was recently completed – TSID has now piped over 60% of its 60 miles of canals. This phase of the project piped one mile of the canal, restoring 1.3 cfs to Whychus. That is more than 840,000 gallons of water per day! This winter, a similar project breaks ground bringing TSID even closer to completing their water conservation project and restoring a total of an additional 1.3 cfs to Whychus Creek. This project is funded by the Pelton Fund, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, The Nature Conservancy, Bureau of Reclamation and the Three Sisters Irrigation District.
Avion Water customers can make an easy contribution to the Deschutes River Conservancy through our Blue Water Program. Avion customers can opt in to make a monthly contribution by filling out the Blue Water form coming out in their August billing.
Every dollar you donate through the Blue Water program goes directly to the DRC to support streamflow restoration on the Deschutes River during the summer irrigation season when flows are critically low. Just $1.00 per month can put 46,550 gallons of water back in the River!
On June 6th of this year, Central Oregon lost one of its most important figures in water management. Bob Main was Watermaster and then Regional Manager at the Oregon Water Resources Department (OWRD) for twenty-two years during a time of dramatic change in perception about water management in the region.
Bob’s philosophy of meeting irrigators’ needs while improving the quality of our rivers was at the heart the Deschutes River Conservancy’s (DRC) formation in 1996. He felt strongly that the State needed to honor its commitments to farmers’ water rights. As an avid outdoorsman, Bob also saw the need for more water in our streams and rivers. Bob had the vision and wisdom to understand that a voluntary approach could succeed in restoring our waterways. In 1992, Bob negotiated with water right holders to voluntarily leave 2.5 cfs in Tumalo Creek, the first summer flow in that part of the creek in almost a century.
As a founding DRC board member, Bob worked hard to make sure that his fellow board members understood all sides of the issues being discussed. Bob’s expertise, innovative ideas, passion and generosity made him one of the most dedicated supporters of the DRC. We will miss him greatly.
The Deschutes River Conservancy wishes longtime staff member, Scott McCaulou, the best of luck in his new position as the Program Director of the Columbia Basin Water Transactions Program at the National Fish & Wildlife Foundation in Portland.
Over the past fourteen years at the DRC, Scott presided over a period of tremendous growth and oversaw streamflow restoration projects that resulted in more than 200 cubic feet per second (cfs) of water being restored to Central Oregon’s rivers and streams.
“A large part of the DRC’s success over the past decade can be attributed to Scott’s steady hand and mastery of project design and implementation,” said DRC Executive Director, Tod Heisler. “We will miss him greatly at the DRC, but his new position will allow him to take the expertise he has gathered so far to support organizations engaged in restoring streamflow throughout the greater Columbia Basin.
The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, Bonneville Power Administration, and the Walton Family Foundation brought together 90 river restoration practitioners together in Bend this past week. They toured the Deschutes and Klamath Basins, comparing and contrasting approaches to streamflow restoration across states and geographies. Through these tours, the Deschutes River Conservancy modeled successful collaborative partnerships on behalf of all of our partners.
The native fish habitat found in Whychus Creek plays an integral role in steelhead reintroduction efforts underway in the basin. Through a series of instream flow restoration projects, the Deschutes River Conservancy, in partnership with Three Sisters Irrigation District (TSID) and local landowners, has been able to restore year-round flows in Whychus Creek to 20 cfs.
The latest in this series of projects is currently underway along TSID’s main canal. In an effort to modernize the district, restore flows and deliver water more efficiently to farmers, the district has been involved in a multi-phase project to pipe 9 miles of the main canal for a total of 14 cfs, or 9 million gallons of water per day protected in stream. This fourth phase of the nine phase project will pipe one mile of the canal, restoring 1.33 cfs instream.
Our goal for Whychus Creek is to restore flows to meet the minimum instream target of 33 cfs set by the State of Oregon. We will be able to accomplish this through a combination of water conservation projects, water rights transfers and instream leasing.