Crooked River flows increase

May 12, 2016
Crooked River flows increase

More water will flow in the Crooked River for a few days next week in an attempt to see whether the added flow helps steelhead smolt migrate downstream to Lake Billy Chinook.

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries plan to release more water from Bowman Dam on the river. Flows will increase Monday evening by about 500 cubic feet per second to about 768 cubic feet per second, according to a news release from the bureau. Flows will decrease Wednesday evening and return to their current level of 268 cubic feet per second by Friday morning.

“The basic idea is to sort of re-create” the spring runoff that historically carried these fish downstream to Lake Billy Chinook and to the ocean, said Michael Milstein, a spokesman for NOAA Fisheries.

As part of a 2005 relicensing to continue operating its dams along the Deschutes River, Portland General Electric, along with the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs, federal agencies and other groups, agreed to re-establish the fish runs by helping fish pass the dams.

PGE began reintroducing the fish in 2007, said Scott Carlon, a fish biologist with NOAA Fisheries. Steelhead are listed as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act but NOAA got a designation of non-essential experimental population for the reintroduction effort. That category carries fewer restrictions.

The goal of the reintroduction effort is to have a self-sustaining population above the dam project, Carlon said, which is just getting started.

The agency plans to see how the increased flows affect the fish, noting a positive relationship in general between higher flows and fish migration.

The bureau’s news release said the experimental pulse flows are timed to avoid affecting anglers fishing the Crooked River. The Fish and Wildlife Service said in the news release it did not expect harm to redband trout populations below Bowman Dam but noted that fishing would be difficult during the experiment and advised against it.

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