News and Opinion from Sisters, Oregon

Funding will help Whychus Creek flows

Deschutes River Conservancy (DRC) is working with funding from Coors Seltzer to further incentivize water leasing in Whychus Creek, a reach that used to run dry two of every three years.

Three Sisters Irrigation District (TSID) diverts flows from the creek for area irrigators. DRC and TSID have worked steadily over the past 20 years to bring back year-round flows through water transfers and piping to permanently protect up to 34 cubic feet per second (CFS) of water rights instream. DRC’s instream leasing program augments these flows further.

Continuing to improve conditions in the stream is critical for migrating and native fish including redband trout, steelhead, and bull trout.

Coors Seltzer has partnered with Change the Course to protect and restore the waterways that provide clean water to wildlife and millions of people in communities across the country. With every 12-pack of Coors Seltzer sold, the partnership is restoring 500 gallons of water through support of projects like Whychus Creek leasing.

Instream leasing is a state program that enables irrigators to lease unused water back instream.

These leases satisfy state water use requirements for the farmer and improve ecological flows instream.

DRC and TSID have a long-running instream leasing program, but funding from Coors Seltzer will provide additional incentive to increase participation and to launch the dry-year program that has been in development for over five years.

This bump in flows in Whychus Creek will occur in mid and late summer — when flows drop off dramatically and when stream temperature in the creek is of highest concern.

Coors Seltzer funding will cover a two-year period for DRC to lease between 1000 and 1600 acre-feet.

This range takes into account the variability of streamflow which is dependent on snowpack and will also allow for an increase in leasing participation.

TSID will lease up to eight cubic feet per second (5,590 gallons per minute), up to a 25-percent increase over current leasing.

“The Coors Seltzer funding has allowed the DRC to enhance its ability to protect flows in Whychus Creek,” said Gen Hubert, program manager for Deschutes River Conservancy. “This, in combination with the finalization of the Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) and goals over time to meet temperature standards in lower Whychus Creek, has provided an incentive to kickstart a program that TSID and DRC staff have been discussing for a few years now.”

The DRC is optimistic that two years of Coors Seltzer funding to help launch this program will give momentum to a stronger rotational leasing program in Whychus Creek. Leasing on Whychus Creek is already up 150 acres this year as a result of this new incentive.

“This is a good start to the two-year agreement,” Hubert adds, “and it’s gratifying to partner in a funding program that promotes sustainability while helping DRC develop a stronger program with TSID to meet HCP conservation goals.”

Manager of Three Sisters Irrigation District Marc Thalacker said, “TSID has been working in partnership with the DRC for over 20 years to restore flows to Whychus Creek while also improving deliveries to our farms. Since 2006, we’ve been involved with the Deschutes Partnership (DRC, Deschutes Land Trust, Upper Deschutes Watershed Council) in support of a comprehensive restoration strategy that guides habitat restoration for steelhead reintroduction. We are committed to continue work in this partnership to restore flows and habitat in Whychus Creek.”

 

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