It’s the DRA’s Fourth Anniversary! Help Us Celebrate and Move Forward.



Dear Deschutes River Alliance Supporter,

As a busy summer nears its end and we transition into fall, we would like to take a moment to reflect and to share our immense gratitude for your support and what it has helped us accomplish.

August has truly been a month for the books. In addition to our ongoing science work, we also celebrated a huge victory in our lawsuit against Portland General Electric. Last week, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit sided with DRA and refused to hear a PGE appeal that would have delayed this important lawsuit from moving forward. This decision also left in place a crucial ruling we secured this spring, affirming the rights of citizens to enforce water quality requirements at hydroelectric projects.

We are proud to say that this month also marks the four year anniversary of the official establishment of the Deschutes River Alliance as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. Over the past four years, the DRA has worked tirelessly to restore cooler, cleaner water in the lower Deschutes River. Besides our important victories in the courtroom, the DRA Science Team has been diligently documenting the sources and extent of the ecological changes occurring in the lower river.

Of our many accomplishments in that time, here are a few we are particularly proud of:

  • A thermal imaging study of the lower Deschutes River and the area around the three dams of the Pelton-Round Butte Complex. This allowed us and others to have a better understanding of the temperature behavior of the river between the PRB Complex and the Columbia River.
  • Two years (and counting) of algae and water quality studies on Lake Billy Chinook and the lower Deschutes River. This work documents the changes in water quality that have occurred since selective water withdrawal operations began, including the water quality violations that are at the core of our lawsuit against PGE.
  • Three years (and counting) of our annual adult aquatic insect hatch survey. This survey was designed by DRA Board member and renowned aquatic entomologist Rick Hafele, to gather data on hatch timing and densities.
  • Over one year of benthic aquatic insect sampling in two locations in the lower river, to document trends in subsurface aquatic insect activity. This study, along with the hatch survey results, indicates an increase in worms and snails along the river’s bottom, and a decrease in adult aquatic insect populations in the air.
  • Funded a GIS mapping project of water quality in the lower Crooked River, to better understand the source of the pollution load entering Lake Billy Chinook.
This and more have been achieved over the last four years. None of this could have been achieved without the dedication of people like you. You are what keep us on the water and in the courtroom fighting to restore the river we all love.



Our mission continues to drum in our ears. It beats stronger with each day. As the river grows quieter, our voices grow louder.

Take a moment to listen to board member and key science team leader, Rick Hafele, as he masterfully recounts the abundance of activity that once filled the Deschutes River.

“Song for the Deschutes”
-Rick Hafele

This is where we stand. As we enter our fifth year, we are proud to take with us many victories, but the final battle has not yet been won. After our critical legal victory this month, we are entering a new stage of our Clean Water Act lawsuit against Portland General Electric. Now more than ever, we need your help in our fight to protect and restore this spectacular river.

Many of you have a long history on the Deschutes. All of you have at least one story to tell of time spent by or in its waters. If you have been to the Deschutes this summer, you are likely walking away with a different tone to the story of your day. Maybe instead of catching steelhead, you hooked bass or walleye. Maybe you noticed the failure of caddis hatches to materialize in the evening.  Maybe you left without the sounds of songbirds or the cloud of insects trailing behind you.

Rest assured that this fight is not over. We can revive the once vibrant display of the Deschutes River that you’ve long known. Thank you for your support over the past four years, and cheers to Year Five: may it be the loudest ever.


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

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DRA & The 2015 International Federation of Fly Fishers Fair

The International Federation of Fly Fishers Fair will take place this August 11-15, 2015 in Bend, Oregon. This is a great event including presentations, workshops, and fly fishing industry representatives and conservation groups from all over the world.

The Deschutes River Alliance will host a table in the Exhibit Hall throughout the Fair, and will be giving a presentation on our conservation work and recent news on the lower Deschutes River on Thursday, August 13 from 2-3 pm.

We look forward to seeing you there!

Source: IFFF.

Source: International Federation of Fly Fishers.

Source: Deschutes River Alliance.

Source: Deschutes River Alliance.

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

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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.

The DRA may be in your neighborhood soon!

FFF Booth 2

We don’t just exist on the web!  Dave and I and some of our Board members will be out and about in the upcoming months sharing our findings from meetings with agencies and other stakeholders on the lower Deschutes River.  We’ll also be talking about our scientific investigation plan to figure out how aquatic insect hatches are faring in the lower river, and why we are seeing such a massive proliferation of nuisance algae.  You can find us at the following events on these dates:

Federation of Fly Fishers Expo, March 6 and 7 in Albany, OR  [Thanks to Tom Larimer and Rick Hafele for giving presentations, and thank you to all for coming by the booth!]

Clackamas River Flyfishers, March 18 at the High Rocks Steak House in Gladstone, OR

Deschutes Guides and Outfitters Briefing, March 19, Confluence Fly Shop, Bend, OR

With Damien Nurre, John Hazel and Greg McMillan.

DRA Guides and Outfitters Briefing, April 9, Best Western Hotel, Oregon City, OR

Royal Treatment Fly Shop, Saturday April 26, West Linn, OR

Flyfisher’s Club of Oregon Auction, Tuesday May 13, Portland, OR

Bend Chapter 552 of Trout Unlimited, May 14, Bend, OR

Sandy River Spey Clave, May 16 – 17 – 18, Oxbow Park on the Sandy River

If you have a club or other organization that would like to have us appear in person, please email us and if at all possible, we will accommodate you.


Greg McMillan


Welcome to the Deschutes River Alliance Blog

Lower Deschute-1

The Lower Deschutes River -Photo Robert Sheley

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.

Greg McMillan

Greg McMillan