Editorial - No easy solutions exist for high water levels

Aug 24, 2012

Bend Bulletin

Editorial - No easy solutions exist for high water levels

No easy solutions exist for high water levels

For some people living along the southern Deschutes River, this hasn’t been a particularly happy summer, as an article in The Bulletin made clear Monday. The river seems higher than usual and they worry about their homes and property as a result.

There are no simple ways to ease their minds, unfortunately.

The Deschutes is, in many ways, a remarkably peaceful stretch of water. It flows from its source at Little Lava Lake, elevation 4,744 feet, to its confluence with the Columbia River, elevation about 164 feet, a course that prevents any serious natural flooding. And, in fact, the amount of water in the river through Oregon Water Wonderland last week was not above normal.

All sorts of things might be to blame, says Kyle Gorman of the Oregon Water Resources Department. The growth of weeds makes a measurable difference in surrounding water levels over the course of the summer — just as putting your body in the bathtub raises the water level there.

Then there’s this. Many, many more people live in the area than did even 20 years ago, and while their homes are above even the current water level, any rise in water is more likely to be noticed. Gorman says the last time water levels were this high was back in 1997.

As for solutions to the problem, they’re not likely to be found easily nor to come cheap. Piping the river through the neighborhood is almost certainly out of the question, while dredging, which might lower the river, would be expensive, if it were even allowed. The groups working to keep the river healthy, including the Deschutes River Conservancy, the state and others, do want to assure that irrigation water is delivered in the most river-friendly way possible.

Meanwhile, there’s this. Unless homes are built on cliffs above the river, they may well lie within the Deschutes floodplain. Even without rain, and even if man-caused, minor flooding can occur. While answers to the problem may be hard to come by, that truth is not.

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