To assure that the Deschutes River is well-represented in future policy deliberations and decision-making, we are proud to announce that the former Executive Director of the Deschutes River Conservancy, Tod Heisler, will join our staff to run our Rivers Conservation Program .
Agriculture is an important part of Central Oregon’s cultural heritage and supports a resilient local food system. Farm and ranch land has remained available for family farmers in Central Oregon because of protections put in place by our statewide land use planning system.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.