September 27, 2011 - DRC News - Deschutes River Conservancy a thought leader in water conservation

Date:
September 28, 2011
September 27, 2011 - DRC News - Deschutes River Conservancy a thought leader in water conservation

Deschutes River Conservancy a thought leader in water conservation

September27, 2011 | Marisa Hossick, Deschutes River Conservancy

The Deschutes River Conservancy regularly serves as a resource forregional groups seeking to learn from the successes of thecollaborative restoration model in the Deschutes Basin. Recently, theDRC hosted tours for two delegations from Colorado and Arizona that wereinterested in seeing how agricultural and environmental interests canwork together to solve long-term water needs.

The first stop on the tours was the Three Sisters Irrigation District (TSID) on Whychus Creek,a shining example of what can happen when collaborative problem solvingis put into place.The visitors learned how restoration efforts in Whychus Creek have increased streamflows and revived fish habitats. The DRC & TSIDpartnered to install pipe in place of leaking canals, saving water andalso providing irrigators with pressurized and more reliable water. Inaddition to the benefits for the fish and irrigators, an in-pipehydropower plant will provide 375 households with renewable energy.

GeneralManager of Natural Resources for the Confederated Tribes of the WarmsSprings Reservation, Bobby Brunoe, discussed the genesis and earlyhistory of the DRC. The tour heard about how the creation of theConservancy was aimed at avoiding a breakdown of collaboration in thebasin. Tribal, Agricultural and Environmental interests all convened tosolve long-term water needs in a consensus and market-based way.

The next stop was the Camp Polk Meadow Preservewhere the groups saw the massive restoration project underway by theDRC, Upper Deschutes Watershed Council and the Deschutes Land Trust.Using increased flows from the DRC’s various conservation projects, thisstretch of the creek and floodplain is being restored to its originalstreambed in a reach where salmon and steelhead historically spawned. Inaddition to fish, this project will improve water quality, recreationalbenefits and flood control.

Following Camp Polk, the toursvisited family farmers and ranchers in the area who have seen thebenefits of water conservation and streamflow restoration. SarahLawrence of Rainshadow Organics has restructured her family’s farm togrow organic produce sold to consumers and restaurants throughoutCentral Oregon. Lawrence and the Simpsons of the Simpson Elk Ranch allexpressed their enthusiasm about conservation efforts in Whychus Creekwhich have enabled Three Sisters Irrigation District to deliverpressurized water to their farms with more reliability throughout theirrigation season.

The tour ended with a stop at the hydropowerfacilities at Swalley and Central Oregon Irrigation Districts. Whilepiping the main canals of these two districts to reduce water loss, thedistricts installed in-pipe hydro-electric generators, which togetherwill create enough renewable energy to power several hundred households.

DRC Program Manager, Zach Tillman helped to coordinate these tours. “That’s the tricky thing about water: every basin is different,” Tillman said. “The Colorado River Basin isvery big and complex, so we learn from their experiences as well assharing some of our success stories from the Deschutes.  Tours like thisallow professionals to exchange experiences and ideas that may one daybe useful in other basins."

 Photo: Doug Von Gausig
Tour members learning about the restoration efforts at
Whychus Creek in Sisters, Oregon.

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