TU hails OWRD grants for projects in Crooked and Sprague Rivers

Crooked River, Oregon. Photo: Brian O’Keefe


Contact: Chrysten Lambert, clambert@tu.org, (541) 973-4431

December 18, 2017

Trout Unlimited: OWRD grants for Crooked, Sprague River projects vital and multi-benefit

$4.2 million awarded to high priority fish passage, streamflow restoration projects in key salmon, steelhead and native trout waters

KLAMATH FALLS, OreTrout Unlimited hailed recent grant awards from the Oregon Water Resources Department for the Opal Springs Fish Passage Project and the North Fork Sprague River Streamflow Restoration Project, saying that the projects would help native fish species, including redband and bull trout, salmon and steelhead, as well as water suppliers, irrigators, and local communities.

Chrysten Lambert, Oregon Director for Trout Unlimited, said, These grants are vital and multi-benefit. Both projects are very high priority for the state, and anglers, in terms of benefits for fish. We salute OWRD, the Deschutes Valley Water District, and other project partners for their commitment to supporting these cost-effective methods of improving habitat conditions and fish migration in two of the most important watersheds for trout and salmon in Oregon.

The Opal Springs Fish Passage Project is a collaborative effort to secure upstream fish passage at Opal Springs Diversion Dam, on the Crooked River just upstream from Lake Billy Chinook. The dam, owned and operated by Deschutes Valley Water District (DVWD), largely blocks steelhead and Chinook salmon from reaching more than 100 miles of historic spawning habitat. OWRD awarded $1.5 million for this project.

This project stems from a broadly supported 2011 settlement agreement between Trout Unlimited, Deschutes Valley Water District, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Indian Affairs, Bureau of Land Management and Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife to establish fish passage at the Opal Springs Hydroelectric Project.

Chandra Ferrari, senior policy advisor for Trout Unlimited in California and Oregon, said, The effort to secure fish passage at Opal Springs Dam is an excellent example of a multi-benefit program that is widely supported by diverse stakeholders and meets critical needs of the state. This project is a critical step to re-establishing populations of native anadromous fish in the upper Deschutes Basin.

One of the great trout streams of central Oregon, the Crooked is a working river, providing water for communities and farms as well as recreation for anglers and boaters. The Crooked has long been a focus for Trout Unlimited and our local Deschutes Chapter. Our work with water users, conservation groups and municipalities to conserve habitat values and enhance angling opportunities here has been productive. For example, steelhead are now swimming in the Crooked River after being absent for fifty years.

The water resources agency also awarded $2.7 million to Trout Unlimited for streamflow enhancement on the North Fork Sprague River. The project involves replacing a leaky irrigation ditch with two 36-inch diameter pipes. The unlined ditch lost some 35% of the water conveyed through it. The new pipes will prevent this loss and allow 90 percent of the water savings to be dedicated to instream flows.

Improved flows in the North Fork Sprague will benefit multiple native species important to the Klamath Tribes and the regional recreational economy, including threatened bull trout and redband trout. The project will also improve water quality in the Sprague River basin for the benefit of endangered shortnose and Lost River suckers, and for salmon and steelhead once the four dams below Klamath Lake have been removed.

Lambert noted that the North Fork Sprague project provides for voluntary water conservation to address over-allocation of water in the Klamath Basin, helping protect the economic viability of ranches served by these irrigation rights and making substantial investment in this important water infrastructure. The volume of instream water per dollar spent on infrastructure for this project surpasses other projects funded through this grant program.