Posts Tagged ‘Deschutes River Passage


Deschutes River Passage: Restoring Runs & What All Goes Into It.

“A 12-pound male salmon, one of thousands of Chinook that biologists and volunteers released into the Upper Deschutes tributaries above the Pelton-Round Butte Hydro Project in 2008, has made history. It’s the first fish to return. A fish with its right maxillary bone clipped — a marker indicating it was released in the Upper Deschutes tributaries, swam into the Pelton fish trap on May 25. The fish had migrated down the Deschutes River in 2009, spent two years in the Pacific Ocean and swam up the Columbia River and 100 miles up the Deschutes.”                                                                                                                   

The first Chinook to return to a release area of the upper Deschutes River.

The Deschutes Passage has been an interesting project to study on many levels. The passage way construction, introduction of steelhead and salmon fry into upper tributaries of the Crooked, Metolius and Deschutes Rivers, habitat reconstruction, club participations, stream flow efforts….all the associated issues with getting Steelhead and Salmon to return above Pelton Dam. It is worth going back and reviewing the news releases and ‘science’ behind this 15 year long project if you have any interest in stream restorations or ocean going species. This returning fish is not new info. The piece is over a year old, but the project as a whole is worth digging into including recent news of some concern about the sockeye run.

 Deschutes River Passage   The archives of the Bend Bulletin might be useful also

PGE Deschutes’ River Passage Project Update?

There has not been an update on PGE’s Deschutes’ River Project’s status since August 2010. Given the significance of the project on the most notable (ok, probably one of the most notable) rivers in Oregon it seems there is only a trickle of output re the project.  Scot Lawrence ( is noted as a contact point for ‘Fish passage and stream/habitat enhancement’.  What is the current status of the project, projections, upsides/downsides of the project so far? Scot?


Deschutes (River) Passage Update (Smolts Moving)

“This present project – planning, modeling, designing and constructing the facility – started 15 years ago. The fact that we are finished and are working hard on actually operating the system is hard for me to assimilate. But as I write this, our partners from the Oregon Department Fish and Wildlife and the Confederated Tribes Fisheries Group are planning to release spring Chinook fry upstream the first week of March. This will be the third consecutive year of Chinook releases. In May, for the fourth year, several hundred thousand steelhead fry will be liberated into their historic habitat in stream reaches above the dam.”

Deschutes Passage


Deschutes River Passage Kaput!!! (now what?)


‘Yeah great idea. NOT. Now that there has been a MAJOR setback because if the accident the other day all the smolt looking to get to sea will be unable to do so. I guess they create a few more trout to fish for in Billy Chinook and a few land locked salmon.’ Comment by Brian Meade

“In 2008, volunteers and wildlife staff placed 140,000 spring chinook fry in the Metolius River, said Mike Gauvin, Pelton mitigation coordinator with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. Those that survived the year started migrating this spring, and biologists don’t know how many are already in the reservoir, Gauvin said, but it’s probably less than half.

To catch the ones that are still on their way down the Metolius, biologists will add three traps to the two already in place on the Metolius, he said. People will check those traps daily, and truck any fish caught in them to the Lower Deschutes where they can swim to the Columbia River and on to the Pacific Ocean.”


 ‘Over the weekend, a $100 million fish passage broke during construction on Lake Billy Chinook, near Madras. The Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs and Portland General Electric spent Wednesday contemplating how to fix the fish passage – and who will pay for it.”


Deschutes Fish Passage Studies (site has new data)

The Deschutes Fish Passage Program has updated its site to include studies on the movement and survival rate of fish. Keep track of this site as this new project evolves.



Deschutes River Passage (tower almost done~additonal habitat improvements likely) 3/27/2009


“Once the construction is complete, engineers and crews will spend the next month thoroughly testing and balancing the system. This unique tower is designed to selectively draw cold water from the bottom of Lake Billy Chinook and warm water from the surface during different parts of the year to meet downstream water temperature and quality requirements. Withdrawing water from the surface of the lake will also create surface guidance current to attract migrating young salmon and steelhead into the floating top structure. ”

“As the runs of steelhead and salmon become more firmly established, PGE and the Tribes plan to add facilities that will allow the fish to migrate past the dams with less human interaction…”

“In addition to these projects, PGE and the Tribes have established the Pelton Round Butte Fund to assist the efforts of local watershed and conservation groups and public agencies. This fund of more than $20 million supports various fish passage and habitat improvement measures in the Deschutes Basin. PGE and the Tribes will continue to monitor the whole fish passage project to determine how well the salmon and steelhead are doing and what is needed to support their return to the upper reaches of the rivers.”

Check out the PGE site for Supporting Projects re interesting watershed/habitat projects that millions of dollars are being spent upon. Also, in concert with this, check out Water Watch of Oregon. They note these expensive projects can be ineffective if the water drawdown is so severe for ranching etc. A concerted effort is in order.


Upper Metolius R. (planted Chinook juv’s growing and moving)

Of the 147 fish captured, 104 were implanted with a 12-mm Passive Integrated Transponder (PIT) tag. Small computer chips in these tags identify individual fish throughout their life span, with the use of a detector. We are quite curious whether some of these tagged fish will be detected entering the new Selective Water Withdrawal fish passage facility at Round Butte Dam next spring. We will have an automatic detector there.



Deschutes R. Passage (Chinook for the Metolius R.)

Metolius R. Chinook...the beginning

Metolius R. Chinook...the beginning


‘150,000 Chinook salmon fry released into the Metolius’

This project is an extraordinary collaboration. There were about 40 of us working on this release last Monday and Tuesday—from the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife, and PGE. We also had a few volunteers from the U.S. Forest Service, Oregon Department of Transportation, and the Deschutes Basin Land Trust. Even though we were knee-deep in ice cold water, we’re all pretty excited about seeing fish in the river again.

A successful release
We distributed 14 bags each morning and 10 bags each afternoon during those two days. It was pretty cold work, but we are all really enthusiastic about getting fish back into the Metolius.



Deschutes River Passage and PGE (Mark This Site for Updates and Background Info)

PGE biologist Dan RatliffI received a comment on the blog last week from Bob MacRostie, the retired manager of the Deschutes Valley Water District that supplies drinking water to the Culver-Madras area. He wished us success but was was wondering just how effective this project was likely to be at restoring fish runs above the dams.

I also want to point out that we needed to construct a temperature control tower to meet water quality standards attached to the new federal license for the project. A substantial percentage of the cost can be attributed to returning the lower Deschutes River temperature cycle back to normal. This will happen quite dramatically during the winter of 2009-2010, with the result being a much cooler Lake Billy Chinook, warmer spring downstream releases, and cooler fall downstream releases than at present.
— Don Ratliff, PGE biologist


PGE, and the Crooked River steelhead restoration (Opal Springs Dam fish ladder)


I noticed in researching the Deschutes Passage site there was reference to the Crooked R. having steelhead being contingent upon a fish ladder being constructed at the Opay Springs Dam. I have questions re this project. What is the status of this project? In further researching the fish ladder at Opal Springs, I found this Priority Table for necessary steps to complete the project.    (Priorities 2008)

Salmon and steelhead migration restoration (The Outline of a Plan)
The multi-organization agreement for relicensing Pelton Round Butte lays out a comprehensive fish passage program, including a solution to facilitate juvenile fish collection efforts in the Round Butte Dam forebay. Efforts will include (all dates are approximate):

  • Construction of a 273-foot tall Selective Water Withdrawal tower to be completed in 2009. The tower will attach to the present deep intake and rise out of the lakebed about 700 feet upstream of Round Butte Dam. It will be capped with a rectangular shaped intake module that will collect migrating fish and separately send water to the generators. The tower and related facilities should cost about $90 million.<!–
  • Reintroduction of spring Chinook salmon and summer steelhead in the tributaries above Lake Billy Chinook starting in 2007. (As juvenile resident kokanee migrate downstream, they may naturally convert to sockeye salmon in the process. If a significant portion of the kokanee becomes ocean-going sockeye, a major new fishery would be established.)
  • In the spring of 2009, the Selective Water Withdrawal tower will be operational and begin collecting migrating fish. The fish will be collected by a screen on the surface of the wedge, piped to a fish handling facility, and then transported downstream of the project where they’ll swim to the ocean. The water from the tower will separately pass through turbines at the base of the dam to generate electricity.
  • Long term, biologists predict that at least 96 percent of the juvenile fish collected at the water withdrawal tower will be safely transported downstream of the project.
  • By 2010 and 2011 the adult salmon and steelhead should begin a return trip from the Pacific, up the Columbia and Deschutes. They’ll be captured at the Reregulating Dam, then trucked upstream past the dams to complete their life cycles.
  • The improvements will potentially reopen 226 stream miles to salmon and steelhead migration (contingent on installation of a fish ladder at Opal Springs Dam on the Crooked River).

 Opal Springs, Central Oregon (Description)

 Opal Springs Dam is on the Crooked River in Jefferson County, Oregon and is used for hydroelectric power purposes. Construction was completed in 1985. It has a normal surface area of 5 acres. It is owned by Deschutes Valley Water District.

Opal Springs is rock fill. The core is assumed to be earth. The foundation is assumed to be rock, soil. Its height is 20 feet with a length of 177 feet. Maximum discharge is 10000 cubic feet per second. Its capacity is 58 acre feet. Normal storage is 41 acre feet. It drains an area of 3800 square miles.



Concerns in 2006: Crook County

“BE IT REMEMBERED THAT the regular meeting of the Crook County Court was held on September 20, 2006 at 9:00 a.m. in the Paulina School Gymnasium located at 70050 SE Paulina City Road, Paulina Oregon…”


CROOKED RIVER WATERSHED COUNCIL/BERTA YOUTEE           (Residents concerns about Opal)  

“Berta Youtee, Acting Interim Chair of the Watershed Council, reported on the Watershed projects, the search for a new coordinator, the 1997 establishment through legislation of the Council, two-thirds of the funding for the Council and projects coming from the lottery, the partners involved that contribute which are Crook County Court, Extension, and Soil and Water Conservation District and the 60 projects done which have involved 50 landowners.   Ms. Youtee said the Council has brought in over three million dollars in grants and has been working on several big projects.  She described one project that involved twenty seven miles of creek, both the South Fork and Beaver Creek and six landowners.  The Council works with landowners that need a connection to accomplish a goal.  The Council does writing of grants and assists in finding funding to accomplish the projects being worked on by the landowners to improve the land, creeks and rivers, habitats and grazing areas.  Ms. Youtee said the Council wants to keep local control and feels the Council has built a lot of trust in the County. 

Judge Cooper and Ms. Youtee discussed the  possibility of the steelhead introduction and the lack of a plan for a local Central Oregon manager to oversee the project. Judge Cooper said he thinks since this is the largest re-introduction of this species in history, it would be really good to have someone locally on the ground, and talking with the local residents and landowners.  Commissioner McCabe said this is going to impact the lower and upper Crooked River.  He had been in a meeting yesterday and the people were not forthright with information.  He said they have a plan for a screening diversion, planning on screening the streams and ditches which is costly.  Discussion was held regarding trying to get a direction on this so it doesn’t impact as  hard.  Commissioner McCabe cautioned the use federal grant dollars because there are strings attached.  Tim Deboodt, County Extension Agent spoke of the Watershed Council and the Soil and Water Conservation District coordinating on grants and becoming active with the landowners, creating a buffer for them during the re-introduction process.  Commissioner McCabe said this is a 13 year project.  Kirk Wineberger discussed the release being scheduled for next fall of 2007 with the adults returning in 2011.   Bob Williams related his experience when he lived on the John Day River and the Bridge Creek project.  At that time, there was discussion of charging $10,000 per fish caught in streams and ditches, and water down to 10 CFS.  Judge Cooper said he thinks the train has already left the station on this project.  Commissioner McCabe said there has already been fish turned out with tracking chips that have been tracked to the Pelton  Dam.  He talked about the $100,000 fish ladder at Opal Springs. 

 Judge Cooper discussed the Bull Trout  and the cold water temperature required while some water that comes out of the ground is already at 78 degrees and there is no way to cool the natural temperature. 

 The Court and audience discussed the Klamath Falls problem with the fish and irrigators in the Klamath Basin, the lack of water for the farmers and the hope that the introduction of the Steelhead does not bring this area to the point the Klamath Basin endured.

 Judge Cooper said that he and the Commissioners delivered that message strongly when they were in Washington D.C.  The goal is to not let that happen, and there is a strong commitment to make sure it doesn’t.

Pelton Round Butte is the only hydroelectric project in the U.S. jointly owned by a Native American tribe and a utility. Currently, the project is two-thirds owned by Portland General Electric (PGE), headquartered in Portland, Ore., and one-third owned by the Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs Reservation of Oregon (CTWS), through its Warm Springs Power Enterprises. (CTWS consists of the Wasco, Warm Springs and Paiute tribes.)

The Tribes purchased their first interest in the 465-megawatt project from PGE effective Jan. 1, 2002. They have the option to purchase additional interests up to a maximum of 50.01 percent as early as the year 2029, according to the ownership agreement. The Reregulating Dam powerhouse remains wholly owned by the Tribes.

Deschutes Passage

Deschutes Passage

(check out pages 3 and 4 for discussion of costs for the project at Opal Springs and approval given)    

This project (The Deschutes River Passage) is moving forward but the language seems to indicate that the passage of steelhead up the Crooked River is contingent upon a fish ladder at Opal Springs Dam. I can see that funding was approved. I am trying to find any indication of work started at the dam. Let me know if something has commenced as of this date.    

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