Fish passage in place at Bend's North Unit Dam

June 10, 2017
Fish passage in place at Bend's North Unit Dam

June 14 dedication set for $1.6 million project

For the first time in more than a century, native redband trout will be able to move freely between both sides of the North Canal Dam on the Deschutes River in Bend.

The goal is to strengthen the fish population by opening up the Deschutes River from Wickiup Reservoir to Terrebonne.

"Fundamentally, we want native redband trout to be able to move up and down the Deschutes without being blocked by dams like this one here," Upper Deschutes Watershed Council Executive Director Ryan Houston said Friday.

In order to do that, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife teamed up with local irrigation districts to make this ladder.

How will the fish know to swim up the ladder? It seems pretty hard to find.

"There's not really a way to do signage for these fish," Houston said. "They don't read signs very well."

So the project managers had to use "signs" the trout can read.

"They identify the best place to put the ladder, so that there would be what's called an attractant flow, which is enough water flowing down the ladder that the fish would find that location and then work to move themselves up the ladder," Houston said.

Mike Britton, president of the Deschutes Basin Board of Control, which represents Central Oregon’s eight irrigation districts, said, "While restoration work can be time-consuming and costly, we are moving in the right direction. This endeavor is a shining example of the power of community partnerships to exact meaningful change.”

The project’s $1.6 million cost was financed by the irrigation districts, the ODFW and a UDWC-obtained grant from the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board.

Houston added, “Collaborative efforts like the North Canal fish passage implemented with local, state and federal partners are helping to enhance and restore Central Oregon’s world-class rivers. This project is a critically important step forward in our efforts to restore healthy fish populations in the Deschutes River.”

A dedication of the North Canal Dam fish passage, including remarks by key stakeholders and a tour, will be held from 11 a.m. to noon on Wednesday, June 14 at the North Canal Dam.

About the DBBC

The Deschutes Basin Board of Control represents eight irrigation districts in Oregon’s Deschutes Basin. The districts supply water throughout the Deschutes Basin to 8,700 patrons across more than 150,000 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. For decades, the districts have worked to increase in-stream flows in the Deschutes River, Little Deschutes River, Ochoco Creek, Whychus Creek, Tumalo Creek and Crescent Creek, benefiting salmon, steelhead, bull trout, Oregon spotted frog and other species. For more information on the irrigation districts and their conservation efforts, visit

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