It was auspicious and particularly foul weather even by Bend standards. We had all taken to calling it a BLOWtilla, and wondered if anyone would dare to show up. The winds howled as community members began to show up at Tumalo Creek for the first annual Deschutes River FLOWtilla. One by one they arrived, with kayaks and paddleboards in tow, geared up in spite of the weather ready to paddle with beaming smiles on their wet faces.
It was 2013 when Kim Brannock of Bend first witnessed thousands of dying fish in a side channel of the upper Deschutes River near Lava Island. As co-founder of the Coalition for the Deschutes, she was sickened by the sight, only to find out it had been occurring for decades with seasonal irrigation water flows that run extremely heavy in the summer and light in the winter.
When growers need water, the flow from Wickiup Dam is at its highest level, often causing washed-out channels that damage sensitive riparian environments essential to the health of the river and its fish.
Scott Nelson completed his first film about the Deschutes River in 2012, a pretty little nine-minute version, set to music, that showcased the waterway’s beauty.
Nelson’s next version of the film in 2014 started exploring the river’s problems. His latest version — showing Monday at the Tower Theatre — zooms in a little closer on the challenges the river faces and the efforts by stakeholders to address them.
Zolo Media and Central Oregon Daily published this short video (Click link to left to watch) about the water issues on the upper Deschutes river and how the flow levels are effecting fish health and populations.
Sometimes it takes a fresh set of eyes to see a problem that’s right in front of us. That’s what happened four years ago when a recent arrival to Bend stumbled onto a devastating scene of thousands of dead fish near the Deschutes River.