Throughout 2011 and 2012 we had many discussions with friends who fish the lower Deschutes often. Often enough to know when something had changed. Some of those friends are guides and outfitters who are on the river almost daily from early May until November. We all shared the same observations and concerns. There were things that just were not the same on the river. Insect hatches were sparse where and when they were once robust. Turbidity had suddenly become an issue. The arrival of steelhead had been delayed. There was a new and different algae covering the rocks in riffles. Bats and swallows were less common place. Why were these things happening and what did they mean? No one seemed to know.
So in January of 2013, with the cooperation of many of those friends (who included the likes of Steve Light, John Hazel, John Smeraglio, John Judy, Damien Nurre, Forrest Foxworthy, Brian Silvey, Steve Pribyl, John Belozer and Rick Hafele) we decided to organize some meetings and bring in some authorities whom we hoped could provide explanations. Originally we called ourselves the Lower Deschutes River Coalition. The more we dug, the more we realized we were treading into unknown territory. The changes we had seen had not been observed by agencies or other river managers. We realized our coalition had to become the forum and process for understanding these changes. In the wake of ongoing reductions in funding over the past twenty years for state agencies, restrictions on the ability of the federal government to respond, we also knew we would have to take responsibility for ensuring that issues would be investigated and defined.
Now, today, the newly named Deschutes River Alliance (DRA) is embarking on a science based and collaborative in-depth look at the health of the lower Deschutes River. We want to better understand the biology, water quality and other issues that could impact the future of the river. Spring of 2014 will see the DRA embarking upon an aggressive research and study process that will help us understand the issues we face and need to solve.
This is the beginning. The DRA hopes the end will be the resolution of imminent threats to the river and a legacy to leave to future generations.