Whychus Creek Restoration
Whychus Creek tumbles down the eastern flank of the Cascade Mountains, through the City of Sisters and into a deep canyon before joining the Deschutes River near Lake Billy Chinook. For 100 years, irrigators diverted 100% of the creek’s water before it reached Sisters. Irrigation demands far exceeded water supply and parts of the creek often dried up during the irrigation season. Since 1999, the DRC has worked with our partners to restore summer flows to Whychus Creek, providing water to support fish, wildlife and recreation.
Three Sisters Irrigation District patrons use most of the water withdrawn from Whychus Creek. Historically, about half of the water diverted through open canals is lost to seepage in the porous, volcanic soil before it reaches a farm. In addition to water leasing and acquisitions, the DRC has worked with the District to conserve water and restore summer flows by piping leaking irrigation canals. The water saved by piping canals is returned to the creek to enhance stream flows and water quality.
The restoration of streamflow to Whychus Creek is critical to the successful reintroduction of anadromous fish in the Upper Deschutes Basin. Prior to construction of the Pelton-Round Butte Hydroelectric Project, Whychus Creek provided up to 60% of the steelhead spawning habitat in the Upper Basin. Restored fish passage and the re-introduction of salmon and steelhead to this region is the centerpiece of the Pelton-Round Butte Hydroelectric Project relicensing agreement, signed in 2005.
The DRC was founded on the premise that collaboration and partnerships are the most effective way to accomplish river restoration. To capitalize on our collective strengths and leverage project funding, the DRC joined forces with the Deschutes Land Trust and the Upper Deschutes Watershed Council to develop a collaborative strategy to support the reintroduction of salmon and steelhead to the upper Deschutes Basin.