McKay Creek Water Rights Switch

McKay Creek flows for 37 miles from its headwaters in the Ochoco National Forest to its confluence with the Lower Crooked River downstream of Prineville. The creek supports a robust population of redband trout, and is a critical tributary for the reintroduction of summer steelhead above the Pelton Round Butte Dam.

McKay Creek is a snowmelt-driven creek in which flows naturally decline in the late summer months. Irrigation diversions in the lower part of the creek, however, contribute to drying up the creek earlier in the summer than would have occurred naturally. The DRC has partnered with the Ochoco Irrigation District to design the McKay Creek Water Rights Switch to restore flows while supporting working landscapes. The project will supply up to 700 acres of McKay Creek-watered farmland with water rights from Ochoco Irrigation District. In return, the McKay Creek water rights will be permanently restored instream. Up to 15 farmers will receive more reliable water rights and up to 11 cfs will be restored in the creek during a critical period for steelhead spawning and migration.

The DRC is partnering closely with the Crooked River Watershed Council to implement a coordinated McKay Creek restoration strategy that integrates streamflow restoration, fish passage, riparian and instream habitat projects, and productive agriculture.