Cooperatove Conservation Project

Restoring the Deschutes River

Location: Far West Region: Oregon

Project Summary: The Deschutes River Conservancy works with farmers, communities, agencies, and various organizations to voluntarily restore the Deschutes River.
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Youth volunteer willow planting, 2003. PHOTO COURTESY UPPER DESCHUTES WATERSHED COUNCIL.
Resource Challenge
The Deschutes River of central Oregon is a popular trout fi shing and white water rafting destination.  Unfortunately, portions of the River and its tributaries suffer from poor water quality, degraded riparian habitat, and inadequate streamflow because of irrigation diversions.  Much of the river does not meet water quality standards.  Its aquatic habitat is degraded in areas, threatening fi sh and wildlife and raising the possibility of legal challenges under the Clean Water Act and Endangered Species Act.  A new fish passage at Pelton Round Butte Dam may increase that possibility, since endangered salmon will be able to reach the Basin for the first time in fifty years.

Congress created the DRC in 1996 to bring farmers, tribes, irrigation districts, cities, private business, public agencies, and environmental organizations together to voluntarily restore the River using market-based actions.  The DRC makes all project decisions by consensus, creating win-win solutions that restore streamflow, remove fish barriers, improve fish habitat, restore damaged stream banks, and increase riparian vegetation.
Examples of Key Partners
Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs, Portland General Electric, irrigation districts: Central Oregon, Swalley, Three Sisters, Lone Pine, and Tumalo; Environmental Defense, Cities of Bend, Redmond, Madras, and Sisters; Bureau of Reclamation, USDA Forest Service, U.S. Geological Survey, the Upper Deschutes and the Crooked River Watershed Councils, Bonneville Power Administration, Oregon Water Enhancement Board, Oregon Water Resources Department
and Department of Fish & Wildlife, Ochoco Lumber, Norton Cattle Company, Brooks Resources, Deschutes Basin Land Trust; Fish & Wildlife, National Forest Foundation, Bonneville Environmental Foundation, and Oregon Community Foundation; Meyer Memorial Trust, The Nature Conservancy, Oregon Trout, Water Watch, and others.
Results and Accomplishments
The DRC has restored more than 30,000 acre feet of streamflow (the equivalent 30,000 acres covered by water one foot deep) and improved 100 miles of streamside habitat—without regulations.  The achievements include:

• Leased 24,000 acre-feet of water to temporarily restore streamflow.

• Conserved and permanently protected 5,892 acre-feet of water instream.

• Acquired 2 water rights to restore 3 cubic feet per second (cfs) streamflow.

• Moved an irrigation diversion 7 miles downstream to restore steamflow in critical steelhead habitat.

• Planted 108,518 trees along 16.1 miles of stream bank.

• Installed 38.6 miles of riparian fencing.

• Removed 8 fish passage barriers.

• Built 47 off-site watering facilities.

• Restored 7,450 feet of stream channel.

• Developed 4.5 acres of new wetlands.

• Built 14,535 ft of terracing.

• Established 55 sediment control basins.

• Put 23,283 acres under no-till farming production.

The DRC uses consensus and market-based solutions to resolve water issues.

Project Contact
Tod Heisler
Executive Director
Deschutes River Conservancy

541- 382-4077


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