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

Sep 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

September 27, 2011 | Marisa Hossick, Deschutes River Conservancy

The Deschutes River Conservancy regularly serves as a resource for regional groups seeking to learn from the successes of the collaborative restoration model in the Deschutes Basin. Recently, the DRC hosted tours for two delegations from Colorado and Arizona that were interested in seeing how agricultural and environmental interests can work 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 solving is put into place. 
The visitors learned how restoration efforts in Whychus Creek have increased streamflows and revived fish habitats. The DRC & TSID partnered to install pipe in place of leaking canals, saving water and also providing irrigators with pressurized and more reliable water. In addition to the benefits for the fish and irrigators, an in-pipe hydropower plant will provide 375 households with renewable energy.

General Manager of Natural Resources for the Confederated Tribes of the Warms Springs Reservation, Bobby Brunoe, discussed the genesis and early history of the DRC. The tour heard about how the creation of the Conservancy was aimed at avoiding a breakdown of collaboration in the basin. Tribal, Agricultural and Environmental interests all convened to solve long-term water needs in a consensus and market-based way.

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

Following Camp Polk, the tours visited family farmers and ranchers in the area who have seen the benefits of water conservation and streamflow restoration. Sarah Lawrence of Rainshadow Organics has restructured her family’s farm to grow organic produce sold to consumers and restaurants throughout Central Oregon. Lawrence and the Simpsons of the Simpson Elk Ranch all expressed their enthusiasm about conservation efforts in Whychus Creek which have enabled Three Sisters Irrigation District to deliver pressurized water to their farms with more reliability throughout the irrigation season.

The tour ended with a stop at the hydropower facilities at Swalley and Central Oregon Irrigation Districts. While piping the main canals of these two districts to reduce water loss, the districts installed in-pipe hydro-electric generators, which together will 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 is very big and complex, so we learn from their experiences as well as sharing some of our success stories from the Deschutes. Tours like this allow professionals to exchange experiences and ideas that may one day be 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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