C.O. irrigators commit to higher Deschutes River winter flows

November 22, 2017
C.O. irrigators commit to higher Deschutes River winter flows

Wickiup Reservoir winter operations modified

In an effort to raise flows this winter in the Deschutes River, the Deschutes Basin Board of Control said Wednesday it is taking steps to ensure that Deschutes River flows below Wickiup Dam are not less than 175 cubic feet per second through next March.

The modifications to winter operations of Wickiup Reservoir reflect the ongoing efforts by the eight irrigation districts that make up the DBBC to restore and improve the Deschutes River, the organization said in a news release.

Earlier this year, the DBBC committed to a minimum instream flow in the Upper Deschutes River below Wickiup Reservoir of 100 cfs between mid-September and the end of March — an increase compared to some years, in which minimum instream flows during certain periods were closer to 20 cfs.

The additional increase announced this week will provide a minimum flow of 175 cfs until irrigation releases begin and flows increase further in April, the organization said.

“We are happy the irrigation districts are taking advantage of a good water year and adding more water to the river,” said Bridget Moran, Bend field supervisor for the U,S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “This is a great opportunity to build on long-term conservation efforts.”

Jeff Wieland, Sunriver Anglers member and Upper Deschutes Basin Study participant, said, "The increased flows provide improved over-wintering conditions for frogs and fish and help protect macro-invertebrates and much of the rest of the biomass from freezing and die-off.

"Equally important, the 175 cfs is another practical sign of continuing cooperation between the irrigation districts, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and environmental groups in developing a Habitat Conservation Plan for the Oregon Spotted Frog.”

“We saw an opportunity to provide additional winter flows in the Deschutes, without jeopardizing the ability to fill Wickiup Reservoir before the next irrigation season and we responded,” said Mike Britton, President of the DBBC. “Although additional winter flows are a step in the right direction, we recognize that it does not permanently resolve concerns related to the reservoirs’ effects on fish and wildlife species and the region’s water resources.”

As Britton emphasized, “The irrigation districts and our partners remain committed to completing a multi-species Habitat Conservation Plan, which represents a proactive, collaborative approach to balance fish and wildlife conservation with water use in the Deschutes Basin through innovative, science-based solutions.”

The DBBC is working with partners, like the Farmers Conservation Alliance, on measures to modernize existing delivery systems through conservation efforts like piping. As piping projects are completed the irrigation districts will work together to transport conserved water through piped canals, reducing dependence on reservoirs, and thereby allowing additional water to pass through the reservoir during winter months.

About the DBBC
The Deschutes Basin Board of Control is made up of eight irrigation districts in Oregon’s Deschutes Basin. The districts supply water throughout the Deschutes Basin to 8,700 patrons across 155,662 acres. The districts work in partnership with conservation groups and local, state and federal agencies to increase instream flows in rivers and creeks, while improving fisheries passage and ecologically important habitat. Since 2000, the districts have increased instream flows by nearly 80,000 acre-feet in the Deschutes River, Little Deschutes River, Ochoco Creek, Whychus Creek, Tumalo Creek and Crescent Creek, benefitting salmon, steelhead, bull trout, Oregon spotted frog and other species. For more information on the irrigation districts and their conservation efforts, visit dbbcirrigation.com.

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