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News from the Coalition for the Deschutes

Taking the River’s Temperature, Muddy Trails, and Upcoming Events

Taking the River’s Temperature: It’s Not Just Another Number

Please join us on Sunday, February 25th, for a presentation by Dr. E. Ashley Steel.  Dr. Steel will give us a glimpse into her world as an ecologist with the Pacific NW Research Station. She’ll explain her work exploring the thermal regimes of rivers and why they matter.

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Feature film/panel event on January 30th: United By Water: Culture, Fish, Water

United By Water: Culture, Fish, Water

The inspiring journey of Upper Columbia River tribal communities as they reconnect with their tribal traditions and the river.

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2017 in the Rearview Mirror; Looking Forward to 2018

 

Winter on the Upper Deschutes.  Photo by Kim Brannock

This January, the Coalition for the Deschutes will be two years old.  We created the Coalition because we were inadvertent witnesses to the terrible condition of the river, and we were compelled to act.  We set out to be a voice for the river and to speak on its behalf.

In 2017, we told the river’s story at every opportunity and advocated vigorously for it at every turn.

Here, by the numbers, is a brief summary of our activities this year:

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Presentation Materials from Jackie Dingfelder: Integrated River Water Management – Oregon Lessons to Learn from New Zealand

Introduction: We tend to take rivers for granted. Even in New Zealand, a country that has been idealized for its natural beauty, rivers have, and continue to be, exploited for the many valuable resources they provide for humans.

Throughout the world, rivers and the web of life dependent on them, are imperiled. We are all part of that web of life. It’s time for us to tend to our own river, the Deschutes River. Please help us write a positive future for the Deschutes River – Gail Snyder, Coalition for the Deschutes

Drawing from her vast experience in Oregon and New Zealand, Dr. Jackie Dingfelder presented perspectives on river management and lessons that we can learn that are applicable to Central Oregon rivers.

While on a Fulbright Fellowship in New Zealand, Jackie studied first hand how they are addressing conservation concerns and threats to their rivers and riparian habitats. She discussed Maori rights, the impact of cows and market forces (China’s demand for more dairy products), and personhood for the Whanganui River.  She believes the Land and Water Forum is a framework from which Oregon could benefit.

She has generously shared her slides with us:

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Presentation Slides from Craig Lacy’s Talk: Historic Fishery of the Upper Deschutes River

Craig Lacey has generously shared the presentation materials from his talk at our October 23rd event at the Deschutes Public Library in Bend.   These contain not only the slides but also his presentation notes.

Be sure to read Craig’s fascinating biography below the presentation frame.

                   

Photographs courtesy of Jerry Freilich – see more from the event here.

His presentation and biograpy follow:

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Read Our Opposition Letter To a Nomination of a Bend 3.4 mile Canal Section as a National “Historic Place”

A 3.4-mile stretch of open irrigation canal, located between Ward Road and Gosney Road in Bend was recently nominated to be added to the National Register of Historic Places.  Earlier this month, the Deschutes County Historic Landmarks Commission heard arguments for and against the designation; currently, the proposal is under consideration.   Read about this in a recent Bend Bulletin article.

The Coalition for the Deschutes submitted a letter to the State Advisory Commission on Historic Preservation (SACHP)  requesting denial of the applicant’s nomination.  Read our letter below.

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Fish Salvage 2017 at Lava Island channel area – with Photos!

This year, the annual Wickiup Dam drawdown brought the reservoir water releases down to the ‘winter’ rate of 100 cfs – starting on October 16th.

Many local volunteers and friends from the following organizations joined together for this year’s Fish Salvage at the Lava Island channel of the Upper Deschutes every day from October 16 through 19th.  Special recognition goes to the organizations’ coordinators, listed below.

To all those that participated, THANK YOU – over 2000 fish were salvaged this year!

Check out photographs, including a few short video clips, that some of the organizers and volunteers shared with us while out at this year’s fish salvage.

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Annual Lava Island channel ‘fish salvage’

The ecological impacts of the low winter flows out of Wickiup Dam have been documented since 1947. In the early 1980s, after citizens successfully stopped 16 hydro dams from being built on the Upper Deschutes between Bend and Pringle Falls, they turned their attention to fixing the unnatural and damaging low winter flows (storage season) and high summer flows (irrigation season) in the Upper Deschutes River. But the problems persisted.

Fast forward to October 2013, when Coalition co-founder Kim Brannock was running along the river trail and discovered thousands of fish dying in the dewatered mile-long side channel along Lava Island. She came back with some buckets and a few friends and started rescuing fish. Since then, fish salvages in this location have been organized each year, but that’s triage, not a cure. The real solution is to restore more natural, stable flows to the river. The key to accomplishing that goal is to modernize irrigation by piping leaky canals and implement water conservation policies so that water stays in the river.

In mid-October this year, when the flow out of Wickiup Dam is reduced to 100 cfs, the Lava Island side channel will again dry out and fish will be stranded. We look forward to the new era when the annual fish salvage isn’t needed because the winter flows in the Upper Deschutes are always high enough to restore and sustain a healthy river again, but in the mean time, we’ll rescue as many fish as we can!

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Today’s insights, through 1947 eyes


Deschutes River Dimick 1947 Deschutes County Historical Society

In 1947, the Oregon State Game Commission documented what happened when flows at Wickiup Dam were reduced to 50 cubic feet per second (cfs) from about 650 cfs. The Commission, now the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, implored the state to permit minimum winter flows of no less than 200 cfs. However, in 1955 the State Engineer unilaterally set the legal minimum winter flow at 20 cfs. This year, for the second year in a row and thanks to the hard work of many, the low flows will not dip below 100 cfs. We’re headed in the right direction: modernize irrigation and restore the river!

Click here for FULLSCREEN mode

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Annual Lava Island channel ‘fish salvage’

The ecological impacts of the low winter flows out of Wickiup Dam have been documented since 1947. In the early 1980s, after citizens successfully stopped 16 hydro dams from being built on the Upper Deschutes between Bend and Pringle Falls, they turned their attention to fixing the unnatural and damaging low winter flows (storage season) and high summer flows (irrigation season) in the Upper Deschutes River. But the problems persisted.

Fast forward to October 2013, when Coalition co-founder Kim Brannock was running along the river trail and discovered thousands of fish dying in the dewatered mile-long side channel along Lava Island. She came back with some buckets and a few friends and started rescuing fish. Since then, fish salvages in this location have been organized each year, but that’s triage, not a cure. The real solution is to restore more natural, stable flows to the river. The key to accomplishing that goal is to modernize irrigation by piping leaky canals and implement water conservation policies so that water stays in the river.

In mid-October this year, when the flow out of Wickiup Dam is reduced to 100 cfs, the Lava Island side channel will again dry out and fish will be stranded. We look forward to the new era when the annual fish salvage isn’t needed because the winter flows in the Upper Deschutes are always high enough to restore and sustain a healthy river again, but in the mean time, we’ll rescue as many fish as we can!

Many local volunteers from Central Oregon Irrigation District, the Deschutes River Conservancy and Trout Unlimited are again joining the Coalition for the Deschutes for this year’s fish salvage.   Contact us for more information.

The video below is from the 2016 fish salvage at the Lava Island side channel. The first half of the video shows views of the Upper Deschutes at different flows in October as releases from Wickiup are “ramped down” so water can be stored for the next year’s irrigation season. The second half shows the fish salvage in action after the flows were reduced to 100 cfs and the Lava Island side channel dewatered.

 

“Lava Island Fish Rescue” – October 2016

 

 

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