Wickiup and Upper Deschutes UPDATE

On Tuesday August 27, 2019 I arrived at what was described to be “A roundtable discussion concerning the future of water in the Upper Deschutes and Wickiup”.

So there I was with Oregon Water Resources Department, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, North Unit Irrigation District, Central Oregon Irrigation District, Deschutes River Conservancy, Coalition for the Deschutes, Deschutes Chapter of Trout Unlimited, Sunriver Anglers, Confluence Fly Shop, and quite a few citizens who had been invited – or decided to check it out.

So this meeting was being organized by the Coalition to provide information to the public about last years draw down of Wickiup, this years expected draw down, and what the stakeholders would like the public to know about it all.

So since I seem to have a reputation in the community for helping to deliver these types of messages to my audience – and it was felt the audience way broad and curious to know these things.


That being said, I grabbed some water and said hello to all the familiar faces around the room. Settling in to my chair I prepared myself for a couple hours listening and learning along side a group of like minded individuals.

A round of introductions later, and now we get to hear from the main players – Irrigation and Water Resources.

The group of Irrigators who attend these meetings are usually made up of Board Members or Farmers/Ranchers or both as it was today. I am always glad to see these folks at these meetings, they provide an invaluable service to our community in the manner of economics and as an example of what hard work really looks like.

Here’s some of the information shared with the group:

  • Historic low level of 1000 acre feet recorded in 2018 for Wickiup Reservoir.
  • Forecast for 2019 precipitation was not as expected due to low flows in the Little Deschutes, and other tributaries of the Deschutes.
  • Historic average for agriculture need for water in North Unit has been 1.8 to 2.0 acre feet of water per acre per year per property.
  • Water delivered to North Unit agriculture this year was 1.5 acre feet as described above. That means the ranchers and farmers had to do what they could with 17-25% less water. Think of it this way – imagine you can only afford to spend 75% of your food budget on food, you might be a little hangry right?
  • 20 year dry cycle for the region has impacted everyone.
  • ESA listing for Spotted Frog Critical Habitat is a contributing factor to the overall draw down of Wickiup. This is due to Crane Prairie water levels not being adjusted to help Wickiup because habitat concerns.
  • Hemp is a plant that uses less water than most crops but does not appear to have a steady impact on crop rotation.
  • Crop rotations are necessary. One year alfalfa, another year carrot seed, maybe a couple seasons of grain, etc. This cycle is a major component of the gamble of being a farmer in Central Oregon.
  • Each year a farmer must decide, based on availability of water, what crops to produce and whether or not to gamble on a specific commodity. Fluctuations from all sides in price of goods, materials, sales, and maintenance/upkeep or upgrade are also assessed.
  • Recent Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) will be published and available for comment by the public in October of this year. The HVP was part of a collaborative process involving many stakeholders throughout the entire Deschutes Basin.
  • Programs are currently on the ground that include 25 miles of new piping and improvements for COID. This will provide conservation of about 150cfs of water.
  • Projected cost for improvements made to irrigation needs is currently estimated at $200-$250 million over the next 20-25 years.
  • Two consecutive years of 150-200% precipitation in the Cascades is needed for Wickiup to fill completely again.
  • Conditions at Wickiup in 2020 will likely be the same as this year.

Here’s a quick link to a YouTube video I uploaded of my live broadcast on Instagram on 8/29/2019 where I speak about what I learned, some more data I probably missed here, and answered some questions from people online. YOU”RE BEING WARNED!!! I SMOKE, I DRINK, AND I USE SOME BAD LANGUAGE!! https://youtu.be/deuq6xjur-s

Links to the groups who were present at the meeting:

If I forgot someone in the list of links that I may have mentioned in the video, please contact me and let me know so I can update it! Thank you to everyone who has been supporting me over the years as I try to make sense and share all this information.