Archives : Deschutes Basin Restoration

Salmon and Steelhead Benefit from Longterm Funding in Central Oregon

July 25th, 2012

The Deschutes River Conservancy recently hosted a project tour for the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and Bonneville Power Administration, primary funders that have been integral in shaping our conservation efforts for the past 10 years. Both organizations have funded numerous projects over the years, but this tour was all about salmon and steelhead reintroduction efforts.

The first stop on the tour was Whychus Creek in Sisters, one of our biggest success stories. Not too long ago, Whychus Creek ran dry in the summer irrigation months, dramatically impacting native fish populations. Now, after a series of restoration projects implemented by the DRC and our partners, we are able to enjoy a healthy creek that is home once again to salmon and steelhead.

DRC Program Director, Scott McCaulou explains the massive restoration efforts taking place on Whychus Creek.

The second stop was at the Crooked River near Smith Rock. This past winter, the DRC and North Unit Irrigation district broke ground on the first of a series of projects that will address irrigation needs of farmers in the Madras and Culver areas as well as the habitat needs for salmon and steelhead in the lower Crooked River. When complete, The North Unit Initiative will be the largest flow restoration project in Oregon’s history.

Crooked River

North Unit Irrigation District Manager, Mike Britton (left) and DRC Executive Director, Tod Heisler (right), discuss the intricacies of the North Unit Initiative.

The last stop on the tour was McKay Creek. Nestled into the Ochoco National Forest northeast of Prineville, McKay Creek suffers from low streamflow during the summer months. When completed, the McKay Creek Water Rights Switch will provide farmers with a more reliable water source and up to 11 cubic feet per second (cfs) of streamflow will be restored in the creek during a critical period for steelhead spawning and migration.

McKay Creek

DRC Program Analyst, Brett Golden, looks for macroinvertebrates in McKay Creek, a sign of a healthy stream.