Rivers & Springs

Is piping a silver bullet for restoring Tumalo Creek?

A multi-million dollar public investment in water infrastructure should return every drop of conserved water to the river system

As one of only two cold-water inputs to the Middle Deschutes River, the health of Tumalo Creek is critical to the health of the overall Deschutes Basin system. It is imperative that Central Oregonians work together to find solutions to the current imbalance in how water is allocated. A recent proposal to pipe Tumalo Irrigation District’s canals would provide more water to the creek, but upon further analysis it may not be the silver bullet it appears to be.  

Tumalo Creek provides a peaceful refuge, outdoor recreation opportunities, and badly-needed crystal-clear cold water to the Middle Deschutes River. However, during irrigation season, very little Tumalo Creek water actually makes it to the confluence with the Deschutes due to Tumalo Irrigation District’s water withdrawals (the City of Bend also draws water from the Creek). River advocates have identified returning flows to Tumalo Creek as one of the highest priorities for restoring the ecology of the Deschutes River.

Check Tumalo Creek's flows live! Visit OWRD's website by clicking  here , then choose a starting date, ending date, select dataset 'Instantaneous Flow,' and click 'Refresh Graph' to see how much water is currently reaching the Deschutes River.  For June, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife  recommends  a minimum of 47 cfs in this stretch for fish health.

Check Tumalo Creek's flows live! Visit OWRD's website by clicking here, then choose a starting date, ending date, select dataset 'Instantaneous Flow,' and click 'Refresh Graph' to see how much water is currently reaching the Deschutes River.

For June, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife recommends a minimum of 47 cfs in this stretch for fish health.

Tumalo Irrigation District has recently put forward a proposal to receive millions of dollars of public money from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to pipe all of its canals. The purported purpose of piping the canals is to improve irrigation system efficiency so that water can be conserved and returned to the creek. However, the District’s proposal ignores other less expensive methods of improving efficiency and contradicts its own statement that all of the water that will be conserved through canal piping will be returned to our rivers and streams.

Tumalo Irrigation District's proposal for millions of dollars of public money is unclear about how much of the water conserved would be returned to the stream.

Tumalo Irrigation District's proposal for millions of dollars of public money is unclear about how much of the water conserved would be returned to the stream.

LandWatch is committed to improving stream flows in the Upper Deschutes River Basin, and critically in Tumalo Creek, while preserving productive agricultural land uses into the future.  We are deeply concerned that the first proposal from area irrigation districts to receive public money from the NRCS chooses the most expensive method for conserving water and is unclear about its commitment to returning all water conserved to streams. With millions of dollars of public money on the line, we expect that the full amount of water savings should go towards improving stream flows

We will continue fighting for responsible use of our natural resources, along with the preservation of agricultural land.  We will also continue to pressure Central Oregon’s irrigation districts to deliver real benefits to the public, which means returning all conserved water to our rivers and streams in order to restore healthy stream flows for fish and riparian habitat in the Deschutes River Basin.

View LandWatch's comments on the Environmental Assessment for the Tumalo Irrigation District System Modernization Project

An Historic Victory: The Battle for the Metolius

The Metolius Basin was once threatened by clearcuts and destination resorts, but thanks in large part to our Executive Director Paul Dewey's unwavering defense of the area, it is now protected as an Area of Critical State Concern (ACSC)
 

The Deschutes Basin’s Last Great Problem

The Deschutes River and the fish and wildlife who depend on it are suffering, but there is enough water for farms and fish.

The current system of delivering water for irrigation encourages inefficient use of water by senior water rights holders and very efficient use of water by junior water rights holders. This results in higher crop yields and economic value on farms that have implemented practices to improve water use efficiency. How can we encourage all irrigators to implement efficient practices?

The Deschutes Basin's Last Great Problem, written by Dave Seminara and published in Bend Magazine, explores the problem and perspectives from different groups, including our Executive Director Paul Dewey.

The river is oversubscribed for irrigation purposes. The Upper Deschutes was once one of the best places in the country for trout fishing, but now it’s not even in the top 100.
— Jeff Perin
Low flows in the Upper Deschutes in 2015, below Wickiup Reservoir. Photo by Scott Nelson.

Low flows in the Upper Deschutes in 2015, below Wickiup Reservoir. Photo by Scott Nelson.

"The competing visions for the management of the upper Deschutes River, which has drawn people and sustained life for millennia, are as old as the West itself.

On the last Saturday in January, a bright, sunny affair when the promise of spring felt near, the Fly Fisher’s Place in Sisters was full of impatient anglers debating the merits of some of the shop’s 1,400 flies. But the light vibe turned serious when I asked Jeff Perin, the shop’s owner, about his connection to the Upper Deschutes River. Seated at a table in the back room of his meandering store, Perin spoke about the river wistfully, as though retelling the story of a once great athlete who had fallen upon hard times.

“I got hooked on the river the very first day we moved here, back in June 1980,” he said, his alert blue eyes shadowed by a stiff-billed fishing cap.

Perin, then in sixth grade, didn’t catch a single fish that day. In fact, he fell into the river. But his older cousin caught a slew of rainbow trout, enough to make a big impression and cement what would become a lifelong passion for the river. Perin can recall days of remarkably good fly-fishing on the Upper Deschutes as recently as three years ago, just before a devastating fish kill in October 2013 that galvanized attention to a problematic twenty-five-mile stretch of the river between the Wickiup Reservoir and Sunriver, where low streamflows have had a harmful impact on fish and wildlife." Read the full article here.

Central Oregon LandWatch Honored with Two Nominations for City Club’s Conversation of the Year Award

City Club of Central Oregon has nominated four finalists for its newly minted “Conversation of the Year” award. Central Oregon LandWatch, a land use advocacy non-profit, played a key role in two of four of the nominations – for the UGB agreement that led to the Westside Transect and for the restoration of Whychus Creek.