End of the 2015 Irrigation Season and Fish

2014FishSalvage-6458On October 3, drawdown of flows to allow storage in Wickiup will begin. Areas of the Deschutes River above Bend will again become dewatered during this process. The purpose of this is to ensure we are retaining enough water for Spring irrigation season. This year the drawdown will occur as it did in 2013, meaning it will be faster than in 2014. In 2013, the issue of fish and flows on the Deschutes reached prominence in our community. Images of dead and dying fish in our river flooded the media and our community reached a tipping point. Stakeholders put aside differences and shelved work to take a closer look at what could be done to prevent this in the future.

In 2014, a collaboration between representatives of local groups, Irrigation Districts, farmers, ranchers, State and Federal Agencies, supporting businesses, and a group of devoted volunteers gathered important scientific data about the Deschutes River between Wickiup and Bend. Working hard in less than ideal conditions and circumstances, nearly 7,000 fish were salvaged in 2014. Many of those fish were juveniles who use side channels for early development and safety.

Data regarding flow impact on river and riparian habitat was gathered in the days and weeks around the salvage event in 2014. With this data, ODFW and the Oregon Water Resources Department have an accurate idea for when fish salvage will be necessary in 2015. While there will be a salvage done this year, the need for volunteers is minimal. This means only a few additional volunteers will be needed for the salvage.

2014FishSalvage-6494As we come to a close of the 2015 irrigation season for Central Oregon, some of you may be wondering how the fish are going to cope with another year of low water and even lower snowpack. The Deschutes Chapter of Trout Unlimited, U.S. Forest Service, and Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife are working side-by-side with local groups to help the future of our fishery however they can.

As the saying goes, “United We Stand, Divided We Fall”.

As someone who has sat in on meetings and been on the ground working side by side with these stakeholders, I can tell you my impression of them. Everyone wants to do better. Each and every one wants to find ways to make it better, and each and every one of them understand there will have to be compromises made on a variety of issues.

We have an amazing resource provided by the Deschutes River. Our lives are enriched by it’s beauty throughout each and every season. As residents and lovers of the outdoors, we choose to live here for the beauty that surrounds us each and every day. Wild and native fish run our rivers along-side paddleboarders, anglers, hikers, bikers, hunters, ranchers, businesses, and our families having picnics along its banks.

2014FishSalvage-6473All of us have a stake in the future of the Deschutes. From every aspect of it’s use there exists concerns which are creating solutions. Farmers and ranchers are making adjustments, irrigation districts are becoming more efficient, homeowners are changing their habits, and even more science is being collected to create a broader benefit for the entire community.

Each of us as neighbors work toward a positive future of the Deschutes no matter how or when we use it. While we may be facing an uphill climb to reach that goal as stewards, the entire community feels it can be accomplished. This feeling exists whether you are a business who utilizes the resource, a farmer or rancher who relies on it, or someone who teaches children about it.

Please continue to support Central Oregon as an active user of the resource. Continue to buy your tags, licenses, permits, and parking passes from ODFW and USFS. Continue to support legislative and policy issues with your voice when you feel it should be heard. Volunteer and support the groups out there helping our river.

Finally, please continue to learn more about the issues that affect our fisheries and the silly little fish I sometimes chase around with my dog in tow.