The DRC was created to bring a wide range of voices to the table to address the impacts irrigation on the Deschutes River
BY LAUREL BRAUNS AND AARON SWITZER
While there are quite a few environmental organizations in Central Oregon at least partially dedicated to restoring the Deschutes, the DRC is unique in both its mission and structure. Kate explains the history of the DRC: It was founded in the 1990s to function as a collaboration between various interest groups including farmers, recreation advocates, ranchers, environmentalists, loggers, tribal communities and government entities. The goal was to create market-based solutions to restore the Deschutes River. These include opportunities that allow water-rights holders to lease or sell their water back to the river, for example.
Fitzpatrick also provides listeners a brief history of the irrigation and water-rights system in Central Oregon and explains some of the challenges of working with such a wide spectrum of stakeholders. She also fills us in on the latest news about the Habitat Conservation Plan which was signed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in December 2020. The plan holds the irrigation districts accountable for a wide variety of conservation measures designed to protect the Oregon spotted frog, bull trout and steelhead, which are federally listed endangered species. The HCP also acts to shield the districts from liability.
Finally we discuss the politics and price tags behind piping projects throughout the region and why this method of water conservation is just one of many tools the DRC promotes to get more water back into the river.
Fitzpatrick worked for the DRC for 16 years before taking on the position of executive director in January 2021. Fitzpatrick earned her BS in geology from Colgate University and then an MS in environmental studies from the University of Oregon. She also worked in outdoor education for five years in Breckenridge, Colorado.
“Bend Don’t Break” is hosted by the Source Weekly’s publisher Aaron Switzer and co-hosted by Laurel Brauns. Every week, we feature a guest from the community with a new perspective on living through the COVID-19 pandemic including mental health professionals, economists, educators, artists, business people, local leaders and historians.
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