Category : Uncategorized
By Kyle Gorman, South Central Region Manager for Oregon Water Resources Department
As of today, the snowpack at the basin’s snow telemetered sites are reading 37% of average water content. We started off November with a spectacular snow pack and December has left us way behind. Although we can recover in January and February, it will take a lot of storms and moisture just to get back to normal or average. “It isn’t over til its over” but we really need some snow in the mountains right now….lots and lots of snow. The forecast for the mountains is only chance of snow for the next 7 days; that is not enough. Three Creeks SNOTEL is only 20% of average for water equivalent and this is the site that gauges snow pack for Whychus Creek. We need 6.3 inches of water equivalent to get the snowpack to average. The precipitation for the water year is 81 percent of average which is better but not where we want to be.
There is a saying in our office that “restoration does not happen at a 21st century pace.”
In an immediate world of instant messages, short cuts and quick fixes, we are accustomed to being able to solve problems right away. When a problem is as complex as solving the flow issues in the Upper Deschutes, the time line for solutions, by necessity, must follow its own pace.
Over the past 21 years, the Deschutes River Conservancy has successfully restored streamflow to Whychus Creek, the Middle Deschutes, Tumalo Creek and the Crooked River through building relationships, forging agreements and creating win-win solutions for basin stakeholders.
With the help of our partners, we are now on the eve of the greatest change we hope to accomplish in our basin: fixing the Upper Deschutes River. It is our responsibility as a community to leave the Deschutes Basin a better place than how we found it. In order to do that, we are changing the story of how we use water in Central Oregon.
The graphic below will show the large-scale and long-term restoration solutions for the Upper Deschutes. You will see how how, through the execution of a suite of innovative conservation measures, irrigators and their partners will create more water security for farmers and restore critically needed flows to the Deschutes River. These conservation measures include canal piping, water rights transactions, and reservoir management. The measures are designed to incentivize irrigators in urban areas to share water with farmers in Jefferson County so that these farmers are able to then share reservoir water with fish and wildlife in the Upper Deschutes.
By rethinking how we use and share water, we can and will have enough water for fish, farms and families.
Gen Hubert and Natasha Bellis from the DRC took a tour of the US Forest Service floodplain/habitat restoration project on Whychus Creek on Tuesday. This project is creating crucial habitat for the reintroduced steelhead and salmon on Whychus Creek. DRC’s flow restoration projects with partners such as Three Sisters Irrigation District goes hand in hand with the Upper Deschutes Watershed Council and US Forest Service’s habitat restoration projects and fish barrier removal, as well as conservation easements carried out by the Deschutes Land Trust, for the reintroduction to be successful.
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.
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.
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.
We are used to some severe weather here in Central Oregon, but the two hail storms that came through in late August were truly exceptional. With hailstones of between ¼ – ½ inch in diameter and 2-3 inches deep in some areas, these storms ravaged crops in Madras and Culver.
Greg Williams has been a field representative for 16 years with Central Oregon Seeds. He reported 600-700 acres of damage to his carrot seed production with the first storm and 200-250 acres with the second storm. Williams is still assessing the total damage, but he estimates a yield loss of 25% to 75% on the areas hit by the storm — just a few weeks before harvest.
When confronted with a storm of this severity, crops become defoliated, stems can crack and seeds shatter from their pods. Flooding is also a huge problem.
This is a serious blow to the 2013 crops and potentially very serious to the 2014 plantings as well.
Rob Galyen, another longtime Madras farmer echoed this same story of devastation. “I’ve been farming in this area for 20 years and have never seen a storm of this magnitude,” said Galyen. With 50-70% crop damage on his farm, Galyen says he is going to have to wait and see what this means for him in the future.
Spring is now in full swing here in the High Desert and the warmer weather is starting to draw people to the river. This past winter was dryer than normal meaning that water supply for this irrigation season is not as robust as last year. In fact, the snow pack in the Cascades was 34% lower at the start of the irrigation season than last year.
The good news is that the reservoirs are 40% fuller than average thanks to the snowier winters of 2011 and 2010. The combined stored water will allow for adequate summer flows for fish and recreation in the Deschutes Basin while providing dependable water for Central Oregon’s farmers.