Deschutes River Fish Kill - What's Going To Happen, Part III

I decided it was time to post regarding this incident that has given rise to more than a few opinions. In the past few months of winter, there has been a surge in articles written, stories told, phone calls, and meetings to discuss the issue that brought the stench of death to this stretch of water. I am so pleased to report that because of many of you who take the time to read, react, and respond - as a community there is a renewed effort to deal with this problem.

While I may not be a scientist, I pride myself on having a keen sense of observation and fundamental ability to share what I view with all of you. Over the past week or so, we have seen a mighty amount of snowfall and rain bring our reservoirs and rivers to a high capacity. In some cases, like in Sunriver, they have even seen some residential flooding.

Last Saturday (2/8), Kim Brannock decided to take a little walk out to the Lava Island reach that has become part of her focus since becoming part of our crew here at the Bend Casting Club. What she observed was that even with the immense snow she was trudging through, there was no water in the side channel quite yet. With the rains we had during the week, she decided to come back out Thursday (2/13) evening with a headlamp. Lo and behold, there was water in the channel.

It seems there is a lot to be said for sharing information and getting people informed. On the same Thursday, many of us (including Kim) were sent an email from the local TU Chapter Conservation Chair Mike Tripp. In this email he noted that Oregon Water Resources Department had reached out to our groups to let us know their plan to increase flows in the coming week in increments of 50cfs so the area could be monitored. The indication was that it takes approximately 12 hours to reach Lava Island.

In observing the levels from the USGS site for flows and reservoir levels in Central Oregon, our weather is filling our reservoirs quickly - which may be part of the reasoning to release some water now. Currently, the levels of Wickiup, Crescent, and Crane Prairie are all well above historical norms for acre feet of holding water. That being said, it is a great indication of the volume of water we should have in the coming year. I for one am very optimistic on having a great water year in 2014 for all of the recreation, irrigation, and municipal needs.

I also looked over the gauge at Benham Falls and noticed about 150cfs increase between 2/12-2/13 and 2/14-2/15 in each of these periods. While the flows coming out of Wickiup had not fluctuated, remaining constant just below 50cfs, it appears that the flashy rain events occurring were having an effect on the Lava Island area outside of the control allowed by the reservoirs. So without the knowledge of where the water came from (other than the sky) it is worth noting that it would appear a flow at the Benham Falls gauge of approximately 600cfs would provide the volume of flow to start filling the side channel located at Lava Island.

These are all just opinions and observations, I am no scientist - but the facts I have spoken on are available to anyone who cares to find them and become informed. I encourage all of you who are concerned with your rivers, lakes and streams to take a little time and do some research. Become involved when you can, this stuff can be very fun and rewarding to your spirit.

Kim, Tom Beans (who took the pic for this article), and myself decided to take a walk out on the River Trail yesterday to take a look at channel and see how things were progressing. At the top of the channel the water level had increased enough to see the top pool filling and still well below the summer flow marks on the rocks that line the area. We stopped at a few key areas to take note of the kill spots and look at the overall situation. It is important to note that even though this side channel has only recently filled to the point it has, fish are present in the channel already. This points to the resilience of our fishery and the fish in it.

I have discovered in this entire process that even though we may feel there is no support or concern in our agencies and groups tasked to manage our resources - nothing could be further from that feeling. I am no spokesperson for these groups, agencies, and npo's - but they all take the time to share their data with me, and thereby US as a group.

These people are all very encouraging and supportive to the desire we have shown to be part of a solution for the issue. In fact, I believe it inspires them to want to share more because we (in the community they serve) are appreciative of the hard work and tough decisions it can sometimes take to perform their jobs. After all, these people live in your neighborhood, they raise their children along side yours, and they share the same love of the resource we do no matter what their end use needs may be.


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