Community Comes Together to Rescue Fish
October 9, 2017 – Bend, Oregon – In mid-October, Central Oregonians will again come together as a community, determined to do something about a seasonal streamflow issue facing the Upper Deschutes that strands thousands of fish in a side channel near Lava Island. A collaborative fish rescue planning effort is currently underway involving the irrigation districts, Deschutes River Conservancy, Bend Chapter of Trout Unlimited, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, United States Fish and Wildlife Service, United States Forest Service, Oregon Water Resources Department, Coalition for the Deschutes and dozens of volunteers from the community.
Starting in the October, flows will dramatically be reduced in the Upper Deschutes River from Wickiup Reservoir to Bend to store water in the reservoirs for the following irrigation season.
Though there is value in the community working together to rescue stranded fish, the fish salvage is a symptom of bigger river management problem and is not sustainable year after year. The real solution for these fish lies in the implementation of a large-scale restoration plan for the upper Deschutes River. But it is important to recognize that the winter streamflow issue in the Upper Deschutes cannot be fixed overnight. Irrigation Districts are working with federal agencies on a Habitat Conservation Plan to address the problem. As a part of a 2016 settlement agreement for the Oregon spotted frog, the irrigation districts have already committed the first 100 cubic feet per second (cfs) of streamflow to be released every winter from Wickiup Reservoir.
Long-term plans require collaboration, creativity, and a substantial amount of capital to implement the innovative solutions needed to solve complex water management problems. The DRC is working with its irrigation, agency, tribal and environmental partners to devise these innovative solutions. Fortunately, we know that with proper planning and good cooperation among the parties, there is enough water in the Deschutes River Basin to address all needs – economic, agricultural, environmental and recreational.
About the Deschutes River Conservancy (DRC)
The Deschutes River Conservancy was founded in 1996 as collaborative, multi-stakeholder 501(c)3 non-profit organization with the mission to restore streamflow and improve water quality in the Deschutes Basin. The Board of Directors is comprised of key public and private interests including federal, state, local government, irrigation, development, hydro-power, recreation, tribes, and environment.