Action Alert – DRA Calls for Afternoon Fishing Closure on the Lower Deschutes River

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Photo by Brian O’Keefe

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:

  1. Begin daily monitoring of water temperatures when water temperature at the Moody Gauge reaches 68° Fahrenheit.
  2. 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.
  3. 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:

Curt Melcher
curt.melcher@state.or.us

Jason Miner
jason.miner@oregon.gov

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.

Dead Chinook - Andrew

From Summer 2015: A dead spring Chinook salmon in the lower Deschutes River. Photo by Andrew Dutterer.

Deschutes River Alliance: Cooler, cleaner H2O for the lower Deschutes River. 

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Lawsuit Update: A Big Day in Court

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The Mark O. Hatfield United States Courthouse. Photo by Krista Isaksen.

On July 17, the DRA again appeared before Judge Michael Simon in Federal District Court for a hearing in our lawsuit against Portland General Electric.  The hearing was scheduled to address several motions that had been filed in the case this spring.

First, PGE had filed a new motion to have the case dismissed—the company’s third such attempt since DRA brought this lawsuit in 2016.  In the current motion, PGE argued that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), rather than federal court, is the most appropriate venue to hear DRA’s claims.  PGE made this argument despite the fact that FERC has no expertise in water quality issues, has not been authorized to implement or enforce the Clean Water Act, and is not involved in formulating state water quality standards and requirements.

Next, the hearing addressed competing motions for “summary judgment” filed by DRA and PGE. With these motions, the parties each argued that the facts and law are sufficiently clear for the case to be decided without the need for a trial. After lengthy argument, Judge Simon indicated that he would likely issue a ruling later this summer.

Here at DRA, we will be eager to read Judge Simon’s analysis of the case. We believe that compliance with water quality requirements at the Pelton Round Butte complex is a critical first step to protecting and restoring this invaluable river, and we will be prepared to continue this important fight if necessary.

As always, this fight would not be possible without the support of people like you. Thank you for all you’ve helped us accomplish, and for your support as we move forward. Watch the DRA blog for further updates on this important case!

Deschutes River Alliance: Cooler, cleaner H2O for the lower Deschutes River. 

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Announcing the DRA’s 2017 Lower Deschutes River Water Quality Monitoring Report

Photo by Rick Hafele

We are pleased to announce the release of the DRA’s 2017 Water Quality Monitoring Report. This report presents a thorough analysis of data collected by the DRA on a continuous basis in 2017, at a location one mile below the Pelton Reregulating Dam. This monitoring is a key element of our science efforts and has been invaluable in helping the DRA and other stakeholders understand the changes occurring in the lower Deschutes River.

Key findings from this year’s report include:

  • pH measurements exceeded the basin standard of 8.5 standard units each day from May 10ththrough August 23rd of 2017, with measurements near 9.0 from mid-June through the end of July
  • In early July, dissolved oxygen concentrations began to fall below the 9.0 mg/L standard deemed necessary by ODEQ to adequately protect resident trout spawning and incubation. Dissolved oxygen concentrations below this minimum standard were measured each day from July 4 until August 27.
  • Higher water temperatures in the late winter through early summer appear to be having several significant impacts on the ecology of the lower Deschutes River. These include impacts to aquatic insect population size and hatch timing, accelerated algal growth, and increases in pollution-tolerant hosts for the Black Spot Disease and the shasta parasite.

This important monitoring work is continuing in 2018. This summer, DRA will be expanding our monitoring efforts, as we perform simultaneous continuous monitoring using two locations. This work will provide an even more detailed picture of the impacts of selective water withdrawal operations on lower Deschutes River water quality.

A special thanks to all who have made this critical work possible, including the following foundations and organizations:

  • Fly Fishers Foundation / Flyfishers Club of Oregon
  • Charlotte Martin Foundation
  • Clabough Foundation
  • Clark-Skamania Flyfishers
  • Maybelle Clark Macdonald Fund
  • American Fly Fishing Trade Association
  • Tualatin Valley Chapter of Trout Unlimited
  • Washington County Fly Fishers

Read the full report here.

 

Deschutes River Alliance: Cooler, cleaner H2O for the lower Deschutes River. 

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