‘Something we can all celebrate’: $6.6 million in federal funds going to two Deschutes River restoration projects

December 19, 2023
‘Something we can all celebrate’: $6.6 million in federal funds going to two Deschutes River restoration projects

(Update: adding video, comments from Deschutes River Conservancy, Upper Deschutes Watershed Council)BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) The U.S. Department of the Interior announced this week more than $51 million in funding from President Biden’s Investing in America agenda for 18 projects in eight states to restore and protect aquatic ecosystems, including two Central Oregon projects totaling $6.6 million focused on the Deschutes River.

Crucial funding from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law for the Bureau of Reclamation’s WaterSMART program will support the study, design and construction of collaboratively developed ecosystem restoration projects that provide widespread regional benefits and improve the health of fisheries, wildlife and aquatic habitat through restoration and improved fish passage.

The largest local grant, of $5.96 million, is to the North Unit Irrigation District to replace and upgrade fish screens at the Bend Headworks at its main canal intake on the Deschutes River (details below).The agency also awarded about $650,000 to the Deschutes River Conservancy and area irrigation districts to complete their study and design of habitat restoration projects to benefit the Oregon spotted frog and native Redband trout on the Deschutes River.The conservancy will use the funding to improve structural changes to the river.

"The structure of the river has changed through the freeze and thaw period of the wintertime," Deschutes River Conservancy Communications Director Marisa Hossick explained Thursday along the river. "A lot of erosion has happened. So you can see that kind of along the banks here, the river has widened.

"They will be working closely with the Upper Deschutes Watershed Council to reconnect the river to the wetlands, as flows in the in the winter increase through conservation projects going on throughout the basin.

Kris Knight, executive director of the Upper Deschutes Watershed Council, said, "Deschutes Watershed Council has a long history of working with the Deschutes River Conservancy to restore habitat and take care of the river and take care of all the fish and wildlife species that use the river."The project will benefit the fish and wildlife that use the river, including the endangered Oregon spotted frog and the native Redband trout, which is designated by the state as a sensitive species.

Knight says with about $650,000, they will bring in experts and consultants together to select projects. They will also be able to hire engineers to design those projects and permit them for eventual implementation.

Hossick said, "The public -- when they're coming out here, they're going to see a river that is functioning more as it should, more as a natural river. And they're going to see a better fishery, improvements to water quality. And so I think that's something that we can all celebrate."Here's the rest of this week's announcement, and comments Thursday from Oregon's two senators:

“Through President Biden’s Investing in America agenda, we are advancing nature-based solutions that benefit local water supplies, and the wildlife and habitats that support them,” said Secretary Deb Haaland. “The Interior Department continues to advance water solutions that are environmentally and economically sound for the American West.”

“The benefits of these projects are far-reaching in terms of climate resilience and ecosystem restoration benefits,” said Reclamation Commissioner Camille Calimlim Touton. “The work to restore and protect the habitat for fish and wildlife also helps to improve water quality and mitigate impacts of drought and potential flood events.

”Commissioner Touton made the announcement during a visit to the Las Vegas Wash project outside Henderson, Nevada. As part of Tuesday’s announcement, the Southern Nevada Water Authority will receive $20 million to create a wetland and other habitat within the Lake Mead National Recreation Area. The project will improve water quality and help protect the spawning area for the endangered razorback sucker in Las Vegas Bay. The Wash is a crucial link in the Las Vegas Valley watershed, channeling more than 200 million gallons of urban runoff, highly treated effluent and shallow groundwater to Lake Mead.

President Biden’s Investing in America agenda represents the largest investment in climate resilience in the nation’s history and is providing much-needed resources to enhance Western communities’ resilience to drought and climate change. Through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, Reclamation is investing a total of $8.3 billion over five years for water infrastructure projects, including rural water, water storage, conservation and conveyance, nature-based solutions, dam safety, water purification and reuse, and desalination. Over the first two years of its implementation, Reclamation has selected 421 projects to receive over $2.9 billion.

Sens. Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden, D-Ore., said Thursday that these projects will use the critical funding made available through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to upgrade fish passages, restore endangered species’ habitats, and reconnect hundreds of acres of floodplain wetlands.“Our waterways and fish are the lifeblood of the Northwest. With intensifying climate chaos threatening the permanent loss of plants and animals, working together to make our lands and waters healthier and more resilient has never been more important,” said Merkley. “This federal investment will support collaborative efforts to help strengthen and restore Oregon’s natural infrastructure while also enhancing aquatic habitat and ecosystems for the benefit of future generations.”

“Our waterways and aquatic habitats are on the front lines in the fight against climate change,” said Wyden. “Restoring these ecosystems is important not only for the sake of Oregon’s beautiful outdoors, but also for the fish and wildlife that depend on these areas to survive. I applaud this significant federal investment, and I will continue to fight for the resources needed to support these ecosystems looking forward.

”The projects selected under this round of the Aquatic Ecosystem Restoration Program include these 10 in the Pacific Northwest:


Deschutes River Conservancy, Restoring Upper Deschutes River Aquatic Habitat for Oregon Spotted Frog and Other Native Species (Task A: Study and Design)Reclamation Funding: $651,542

The Deschutes River Conservancy (DRC), in partnership with the Deschutes Basin Board of Control (DBBC), will complete the study and design of habitat restoration projects that will benefit the Oregon spotted frog, listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act and the native Redband trout designated by the state as a sensitive species, on the Deschutes River in central Oregon. Habitat for these species has been degraded in this section of the Upper Deschutes River between the Wickiup Reservoir and the City of Bend, which includes Reclamation’s Deschutes Project, through the storage and release of water for irrigation. The DRC and DBBC will conduct site studies and analysis to prioritize projects to restore the stream channel through regrading the riverbanks and reconnecting the active channel to its floodplains to allow flows to inundate wetlands and riparian areas adjacent to the river channels, providing habitat for the Oregon Spotted Frog and improving in-stream habitat.

North Unit Irrigation District, Fish Screen Replacement at Bend Headworks (Task B: Construction)Reclamation Funding: $5,965,809

North Unit Irrigation District will replace the existing, rotary drum fish screens with upgraded, flat plate screens and a traveling screen cleaning system at the Bend Headworks, located at the district’s main canal intake on the mainstem of the Deschutes River, in Bend, Oregon. The Deschutes River is home to brown and rainbow trout, the rare brook trout, whitefish, and transient fingerling coho and kokanee from Wickiup Reservoir, a Bureau of Reclamation Project. The design of the new screens will slow the approach velocity, shrink the mesh size of the screen, and provide a safe path for fish to the fish ladder.

Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, Restoring Ecosystem Function and Fish Habitat in the Hood River Watershed (Task A: Study and Design)Reclamation Funding: $500,000

The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife and Hood River Watershed Group will complete the study and design of five stream restoration projects across the East Fork Hood River, Neal Creek, and Baldwin Creek sub-watersheds in north-central Oregon. Funding will be used to develop 100 percent designs to remove two fish passage barriers and restore at least 3.5 miles of fish habitat, which will improve wetland function, increase stream complexity, restore riparian habitat, and connect the floodplain to the main channel. The projects will advance the recovery of Endangered Species Act listed Lower-Columbia River Salmon and steelhead.

Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, Reconnecting Fish Passage to Recover Oregon Coast Coho in the Nehalem and Tillamook Watersheds (Task B: Construction)Reclamation Funding: $3,000,000

The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife and local partners will complete a suite of high-priority fish passage and habitat restoration actions in the Lower Nehalem Watershed, in coastal, Northwest Oregon. The project will include the removal of 4 dams and culverts and will replace 5 tide gates, which are fish passage barriers that also restrict floodplain connectivity with two muted tidal regulator gates, which will result in 22 miles of coho spawning and rearing habitat reconnected and 381 acres of floodplain wetlands reconnected.

Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, Restoring Habitat Connectivity for Lower Columbia River Salmonids in the North Fork Klaskanine River Watershed (Task B: Construction)Reclamation Funding: $3,175,089

The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife will restore fish passage in the North Fork Klaskanine River by providing fish passage at the Ogee Dam. The project builds upon progress made in previous phases of a watershed-scale effort, that included the removal of one dam and installation of a fish passage structure at a second dam upstream of the proposed project location at Ogee Dam. Once installed, the fish passage feature at Ogee Dam will provide access to 12 full miles of critical spawning and rearing habitat in the upper reaches of the North Fork Klaskanine River for the benefit of ESA-listed coho salmon. The project will also benefit several non-listed, but culturally significant species, including coastal cutthroat trout, Pacific lamprey, and Western brook lamprey.


Chelan County, Peshastin Creek Historic Channel and Floodplain Reconnection and Design Project (Task A: Study and Design)Reclamation Funding: $768,587

Chelan County will complete the study and design of a comprehensive restoration project to relocate and reconnect the Peshastin Creek channel with its historic floodplain and build two highway bridges across the rerouted creek in Chelan County, Washington. Aquatic habitat within Peshastin Creek was severely degraded by the construction of State Route 97 in the 1950’s, which reduced and straightened the stream channel and disconnected it from the historic channel footprint and floodplain. The County will complete a hydrology and hydraulic assessment of existing and proposed conditions, perform an alternatives analysis seeking input from fish biologists, local landowners, and other stakeholders, and conduct a bridge study and risk analyses, to produce a 60% design package.

Confederated Tribes of the Yakama Nation, Pom Pom Road at Toppenish Creek Habitat Restoration and Fish Passage Project (Task B: Construction)Reclamation Funding: $3,020,000

The Yakama Nation will restore aquatic habitat and fish passage on Toppenish Creek, a tributary to the Yakima River in Yakima County, Washington. Irrigation diversions, roads, bridges, and agriculture have disconnected the creek’s main channel from its historic floodplain. As a result, federally-listed salmonid species have been cut-off from healthy floodplain spawning habitat, and groundwater recharge from the floodplain has been eliminated. When completed, the restoration project will provide 2.4 miles of complex high-quality rearing and spawning habitat for the federally threatened Columbia River steelhead and culturally important Pacific lamprey by routing stream flows back into of the historic channel. Installation of a new bridge and three box culverts will increase flow conveyance width by 270%, the creek will be reconnected to 100 acres of floodplain forests, restoring natural stream processes, and increasing flood water storage.

Confederated Tribes of the Yakama Nation, Nason Creek Floodplain (DOT-N1) RM 3.2 to 4.6 Floodplain Project (Task A: Study and Design)Reclamation Funding: $500,000

The Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation (Yakama Nation), in partnership with the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) and the U.S. Forest Service (USFS), and in coordination with the Wenatchee Subbasin Watershed Action Team (WAT), will complete final construction designs for a large-scale salmon habitat restoration project along Nason Creek near the City of Leavenworth in Chelan County, Washington, within the Northern Treaty Territory of the Yakama Nation. The project will develop final construction designs to remove, and subsequently re-route, a problematic 0.65-mile-long segment of State Route 207 away from the Nason Creek floodway to restore stream habitat for Endangered Species Act (ESA) listed spring Chinook salmon, steelhead, and bull trout.

Confederated Tribes of the Yakama Nation, Wapato Diversion: Improvements for Anadromous Fish Passage (Task A: Study and Design)Reclamation Funding: $2,000,000

The Yakama Nation, working in partnership with the Bureau of Indian Affairs, will develop alternatives for the passage of anadromous fish species at the Wapato Diversion on the lower Yakima River in Central Washington State. Following an alternatives analysis, the selected project concept will be advanced to a 60% level of design. The purpose of the design alternatives is to restore fish passage for fish within the Yakima Major Population Group of federally-threatened, Middle Columbia River (MCR) Steelhead, spring and summer run Chinook, Coho, and Sockeye salmon, and juvenile and adult Pacific Lamprey.

Confederated Tribes of the Yakama Nation, Prosser Diversion: Improvements for Anadromous Fish Passage (Task A: Study and Design)Reclamation Funding: $2,000,000

The Yakama Nation will study, select, and design alternatives to improve fish passage and avoid entrainment at the Prosser Diversion on the lower Yakima River of Central Washington State. The Prosser Diversion supplies irrigation water through the Chandler Canal serving the Kennewick Division of Reclamation’s Yakima Project. The dam can divert more than 50% of Yakima River flow at times, creating very dangerous fish passage conditions. A large proportion of the Yakima basin’s smolts get entrained in the canal and suffer high mortality. Removal or modification of the dam and headworks will create safer passage conditions for all anadromous species. These improvements will benefit all four populations comprising the Yakima Major Population Group of federally-threatened Middle Columbia River Steelhead juveniles and adults; juveniles and adults from the entire Yakima populations of spring and summer run Chinook, naturally-spawning fall Chinook, Coho, and Sockeye salmon; and juvenile and adult Pacific Lamprey.Link to Full Video Here: https://ktvz.com/news/environment/2023/12/19/something-we-can-all-celebrate-6-6-million-in-federal-funds-going-to-two-deschutes-river-restoration-projects/?fbclid=IwAR2NEzsV9YS_unDwprHMbPh7IZvOPeHpNbnguu2dQSaX_VnBNSsCYPwM4OY

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