News and Opinion from Sisters, Oregon

Letters to the Editor…

Cost of living

To the Editor:

The ladies behind the desk at Kiwanis Food Bank who fill our food boxes; the men and women who pump your gas; the girls at the motels that make the beds and clean the tubs, toilets, and floors every day; the waitresses who serve your food and those in the kitchen who cook it and wash the dishes; those who drive around every week collecting your garbage; those who clean your homes; the checkers who wait on us every day and often have to put up with attitude that sometimes is not so nice; the young men and women who landscape your yards and businesses in unbearable heat — so many little people who live and work in Sisters deserve our appreciation for keeping Sisters so beautiful.

My concern for them is how and where they live. Some live in tents and trailers in the woods, or live in friends’ driveways, or couch-surf with friends. Every time we hear that somebody is going to build affordable housing, it turns out it’s only affordable in certain minds and circles. I am 77 years old and on Social Security and my rent is so high, but there are many who suffer even more than I, yet they are afraid to stand up for their rights because they will end up homeless like so many who are already.

It is these little people who keep our towns and cities beautiful, clean, and all the people served “equally.” It is so sad we can work in a town but can’t afford to live in it because our pay doesn’t meet the cost.

I have worked in construction, cleaned houses and rooms in motels, landscaped, mowed lawns while carrying a baby, raised four children, and taken care of five other children.

I am proud of what I have done and how hard I’ve worked.

But I am sad that I have so little simple respect to show for it.

I was told when I moved into Tamarack Village that our rent at move-in would never go up! Well, it’s gone up every year since.

(See: Diane Goble’s article in the April 5, 2016, edition of The Nugget, “Of a certain age”) I have lived in Sisters 22 years now, and 17 of those years have been here in Tamarack Village.

I can’t afford to stay and I can’t afford to leave either.

Connie Johnson

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Whychus water

To the Editor:

The article in the December 8 edition titled “More water to flow in Whychus Creek” is a gross misrepresentation. The water right transfer referred to is in fact a transfer in paper only. The diversion has not occurred for many years. You can clearly see this for yourself by looking at historical aerial photographs on Google Earth. I have observed the area firsthand, and the diversion has not been functional for years. The transfer adds no water to the creek.

For argument’s sake, say they had been diverting 69 million gallons per year during the irrigation season, they would have had to put it all into a very large, shallow, lined pond from which it all evaporated to claim that now they will be leaving the 69 million gallons in the creek. Plainly ridiculous.

Again, for argument’s sake say they had in the past and could have in the future diverted from the creek water for irrigation it is likely that more than half the water would have found its way back into the creek by leakage out of the bottom of ditches and ponds, and flood irrigation return (water that percolates through the root zone to groundwater). So even if they did divert the full water right it would not have all been a loss of the creek flow. Therefore, if they had diverted the water they cannot claim that now they are returning 69 million gallons of water back to the Whychus Creek.

I checked the Deschutes River Conservancy website, and they state essentially the same thing as your article does. I am certain there are people that work for the Deschutes River Conservancy that know that the transfer will not add 69 million gallons of water to the creek.

Mark Yinger

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The Nugget requested that Deschutes Land Trust and Deschutes River Conservancy respond to the issues raised in Mark Yinger’s letter. Their joint response provided by Natasha Bellis, conservation director for Deschutes Land Trust follows.

To the Editor:

We appreciate that Mark Yinger and others are paying attention to activities surrounding water use in the Deschutes Basin. We all need local community members dedicated to conserving and caring for natural resources in Central Oregon. We hope this response helps add clarity to Mr. Yinger’s concerns.

While water has not been used on the land recently, it was regularly used for irrigation prior to 2009. Beginning in 2009, the landowners (including the current owners, Deschutes Land Trust) regularly leased the water rights instream to maintain “beneficial use,” a legal requirement to maintain the validity of a water right. Instream leasing is a state administrative process that allows the water to be protected instream rather than used on the land to satisfy State beneficial-use requirements. Because the water has regularly been leased instream, it is good that aerial photos show that the land has not been irrigated.

The water right certificates being transferred to instream use totaled 59.2 acres, of which 19 acres could not show beneficial use from irrigation or from instream lease, and were canceled. Of the 59.2 acres, 40.2 total acres did have a record of beneficial use, first from irrigation use, then from periodic instream leasing.

The State has a review process that looks at gaining and losing stream reaches to determine the amount of return flows (water that finds its way back to the creek). Water from this transfer is protected instream through lower Whychus Creek, and through the Deschutes River. A reduction is taken on the protected water in the Deschutes River. Between the original place of use and the point of reduction, there are no water users that will be impacted by protected flow. The reduction in the Deschutes does protect water users downstream, who are entitled by law to use return flow from upstream users, by only protecting the amount of water that would have been consumptively used by irrigation.

An additional benefit of the permanent instream transfer of this water is the removal of the diversions and subsequent habitat restoration.

The diversions were remote, unregulated, and lacked fish screens.

To divert water for irrigation, heavy machinery was used in the creek to create “push-up” dams to divert an unmeasured amount of water for irrigation.

The transfer reduces the need for these diversions and is a piece of a much larger restoration initiative on Whychus Creek.

As a result of this transfer, not only have the push-up dams and disturbance to the creek been permanently removed, the area, which had also been channelized with berms, is now going through extensive habitat, channel, and floodplain connectivity restoration.

We are thrilled that this water is no longer diverted and is now permanently instream. This transfer, together with many other habitat restoration efforts, will continue to improve the health of Whychus Creek for trout, returning steelhead and Chinook, birds, deer, elk, and the people who love our local rivers and streams.

Natasha Bellis


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