For the last two days, water temperatures at the Deschutes River’s Moody gauge reached 71° Fahrenheit, and have exceeded 70° Fahrenheit on many recent days. With predicted temperatures in north Central Oregon near or above 100° through early next week, it’s likely that Deschutes temperatures will reach 72° and higher in the coming days.
These temperatures are extremely dangerous for Deschutes River fish, including summer steelhead–which are listed as “threatened” under the Endangered Species Act. Water temperatures this high are widely understood to cause stress in salmonids, and prolonged exposure to these temperatures can result in mortality, or leave salmonids more vulnerable to a variety of temperature-enabled diseases.
With this in mind, we believe it is imperative that the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) take any and all steps within its power to protect Deschutes River fish from these dangerously high temperatures. Most importantly, we believe ODFW should immediately implement an angling closure on the Deschutes River after 2 PM, from the mouth upstream to Sherars Falls, until water temperatures are consistently lower than 70° Fahrenheit. Such a move would help avoid additional and unnecessary stress, and potential mortality, to the river’s fish from hooking and handling.
We believe the state of Oregon has a responsibility to protect fish (especially when Endangered Species Act-listed fish are present) from the potentially lethal consequences of catch and release fishing when dangerously high water temperatures are present in the lower Deschutes River. A plan should be in place that is automatically triggered when water temperatures at the Moody Gauge reach 68° Fahrenheit. The plan should be progressive, and implemented in a step-wise fashion similar to the following:
- Begin daily monitoring of water temperatures when water temperature at the Moody Gauge reaches 68° Fahrenheit.
- Close all recreational angling from Sherars Falls to Heritage Landing on a daily basis beginning at 2 PM on any day when water temperatures at Moody reach or exceed 70° Fahrenheit.
- ODFW and other resource agencies should call on PGE to release as much bottom water as possible from the Pelton Round Butte Project when temperatures at the Moody Gauge reach daytime maximums of 70°. Article 405 of the Project’s FERC license explicitly empowers these agencies to require PGE to take any “restorative measures” at the Project whenever fish are harmed or endangered as a result of Project operations.
Again, we believe ODFW should be ready to implement these measures quickly and efficiently in the event that water temperatures begin threatening salmonids.
Please take a few minutes to contact ODFW Director Curt Melcher, along with Governor Brown’s Natural Resources Policy Manager Jason Miner, and urge them to implement these sensible measures—including an immediate closure of recreational fishing below Sherars Falls after 2 PM—to protect Deschutes River fish:
In the meantime, we would ask that all anglers cease fishing at 2 PM during these periods of high water temperatures. Find some shade, enjoy a cold beverage, and give the fish a much-needed respite.
Deschutes River Alliance: Cooler, cleaner H2O for the lower Deschutes River.
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