2014 Lower Deschutes River Aquatic Insect Hatch Report – by Greg McMillan

2014 Lower Deschutes River Aquatic Insect Hatch Survey Report

Now Available

Our 2014 Lower Deschutes River Aquatic Insect Hatch Survey by Rick Hafele is now available on our website. Rick, with the help of several guides and experienced fly anglers, compiled over 100 hatch observations in this report.

This is a worthwhile read to understand the hatches on the lower Deschutes. It’s also essential reading to understand the changes in aquatic insect populations and their hatch timing.

The single most startling result noted in the survey is the disappearance of the Antocha crane flies. The participants in this survey aren’t the only ones to note the disappearance of the Antochas. Portland General Electric and The Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs Reservation, owners/operators of the Pelton-Round Butte Dam complex, hired a natural resources consultant to do a biological survey of the lower Deschutes River. That consultant, in their report, has also failed to find evidence of Antocha crane flies.

How important is the loss of a species of insect in the lower Deschutes? If it’s an indicator of river health, the answer is very important. And we believe the Antochas are an indicator of river health.   We believe that the cause of their demise is the algae that now grows in the splash zone on river rock in the lower Deschutes. It’s in the splash zone that adult crane flies lay their eggs.

Deschutes Crane Flies by John Hazel

Deschutes Crane Flies by John Hazel

This algae, new since the switch to surface water withdrawal at Round Butte Dam, is likely the result of a change in nutrients being discharged from the dam. DRA has reported on this in several previous posts.

Antochas did have value to anglers. During the time of their mating, they were sometimes swept off rocks and made available to feeding fish. The astute angler could be very successful if imitating them at these times. But they had a more important role, and that was as part of the larger food chain of the Deschutes River Canyon. That food chain includes (but is not limited to) fish, birds and bats. The loss of Antochas must not be taken lightly.

Photo by Dave Hughes

Antocha Crane Fly

Special thanks to Rick Hafele for his expertise and diligence in creating this important publication. Also, special thanks to the guides and anglers who made this report possible (John Smeraglio, Sam Sickles, Alex Gonsiewski, David Moskowitz, Steve Pribyl, Steve Light, Evan Unti, Rick Trout, and Damien Nurre).

DRA Files Comments on Pelton-Round Butte “Low Impact” Re-certification – by Greg McMillan

Deschutes River Alliance Files Comments in Low Impact Hydropower Institute Proceeding

Regarding Re-certification of the Pelton-Round Butte Project as a Low Impact Facility

Photo by Greg McMillan

Pelton Dam. Photo by Greg McMillan

On January 6, 2015, the Deschutes River Alliance (DRA) filed comments opposing the re-certification of the Pelton-Round Butte Dam Complex as a low impact hydroelectric operation. The Low Impact Hydropower Institute (LIHI) certifies dams that meet stringent standards for the production of clean renewable energy. Utility companies that obtain this certification are considered to meet state requirements for inclusion of clean energy in their power production portfolios. Utility companies that obtain this certification may also market higher priced “clean energy” packages to consumers (such as Portland General Electric’s “Green Source” package). LIHI certification guarantees that a dam operation has minimal impact on the river it’s located on, as well as the attendant fish and wildlife.

The basis for our position are the ongoing violations of Statewide Water Quality Standards and the requirements of the Water Quality Management and Monitoring Plan that are part of the operating license for the Pelton-Round Butte Project, which is owned by Portland General Electric and the Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs Reservation.

We identified three matters in support of our opposition to the application:

  • A failure to meet the dissolved oxygen standard;
  • A failure to meet the pH standard; and
  • A failure to meet the nuisance phytoplankton requirements.

Our complete comments to LIHI are posted on our website.

We did not take this action without serious deliberation and consideration of its implications. We have discussed these issues with representatives of PGE for nearly two years. Despite evidence from us, and PGE’s own consultants, there has been no admission of problems in the lower Deschutes River. No plan has been presented to us, or to any government agency that we are aware of, to correct the problems we’ve identified. To date we have not seen evidence that PGE intends to act on these issues and feel compelled to take this step in the interest of the health of our river.

DRA Comments on Interim Lower Deschutes River Biological Assessment by Greg McMillan

The Nymph

Under the current operating license for the Pelton-Round Butte Project, Portland General Electric (PGE) and The Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs Reservation (CTWSR) were required to conduct a macroinvertebrate survey following the initial operation of the Selective Water Withdrawal. Selective Water Withdrawal (or SWW) is the process by which surface water is now mixed with bottom water from the reservoir to facilitate juvenile fish migration across Lake Billy Chinook. The study requirement was intended to allow a comparison of lower river conditions, pre and post SWW.

Selective Water Withdrawal Facility in Lake Billy Chinook Photo by Greg McMillan

Selective Water Withdrawal Facility in Lake Billy Chinook
Photo by Greg McMillan

R2 Resource Consultants, a contractor to PGE/CTWSR, conducted a baseline biological study in 1999-2001. The study focused on aquatic macroinvertebrates (primarily aquatic insects) and algae growth in different locations as far downstream as Sandy Beach, a few miles downstream of Maupin, OR.

R2 Resource Consultants were hired again in 2013 to conduct a repeat of that study to determine if any changes have taken place below the dams as a consequence of the change to SWW from bottom draw. In both studies, the biological sampling was conducted in the months of October and April.

PGE was kind enough to furnish us with a copy of the interim analysis of the current study. The final report should become available in late fall of 2015. The interim analysis and report is just that, a mid-way report of the findings half way through the study.  The interim report is 125 pages long and contains data from well-conducted sampling protocols.

The DRA science team has reviewed the interim report and provided comments on the report to PGE. You will find our comments under the “reports” tab on our website. Our comments describe our thinking on the data collected so far, and their meaning. It’s compelling reading for anyone concerned about the lower river.

DRA will not publish the actual interim report on our website as we don’t have permission to do so, and as an interim report, probably shouldn’t be on our website. DRA’s comments do summarize much of the data and we do comment on their meaning.  As our comments are our own, we are not reluctant to post our comments.

We will continue to monitor the results of the study as it continues. The quality of the work being done is excellent. This study is one of the key components of understanding what is happening in the lower Deschutes River.