The Deschutes Partnership has accomplished the following in the lower Crooked River:
Land Conservation:The Deschutes Land Trust’s primary objectives in the Crooked River are to: (1) protect stream properties in a manner that facilitates and protects restoration investments; (2) protect a select few properties that have outstanding ecological attributes (e.g., spring or tributary inputs, wetlands) extending beyond the floodplain area. Because the predominant land uses are ranching and farming, conservation for the most part will take the form of working lands conservation easements.
- The Land Trust’s initial focus areas are upper McKay Creek and Ochoco Creek from Ochoco dam to Prineville, where the greatest potential exists for protection and/or restoring spawning and rearing habitat and restoration strategies are beginning to take shape. The mainstem Crooked River is a longer-term goal, particularly between Prineville and Highway 97, where stream flow issues make restoration more challenging. This area has interested landowners, a relatively high development threat, and a significant upside in terms of fish production.
- In the next six years, the Land Trust anticipates protecting approximately 2.5 miles on McKay Creek and Ochoco Creek, all through working lands conservation easements.
Streamflow Restoration:On the mainstem Crooked River, the Deschutes River Conservancy worked with the North Unit Irrigation District to restore 84 cfs to the lower river by generating conserved water in the Deschutes River, transferring that water to North Unit farmers with Crooked River water rights, and transferring the Crooked River water rights permanently instream. To date, two projects have restored 34 cfs. Future phases over the next six years will restore an additional 50 cfs. Leasing contributes an additional 10 cfs on average annually.
- In McKay creek, up to 11.2 cfs will be restored (including elimination of all direct creek withdrawals) in the low-flow reach. This will be achieved through exchanging McKay Creek water rights with Ochoco Irrigation District water rights from the larger Crooked River system and permanently transferring the McKay rights instream. Partners expect to meet the state instream water right of 6 cfs wet water in June, benefiting steelhead emergence and migration.
Stream Habitat Restoration:
In the lower Crooked River, the Crooked River Watershed Council has completed nearly three miles of stream restoration, including projects on McKay Creek. Key areas that remain to be addressed represent approximately 30 miles in the Lower Crooked, including McKay and Ochoco Creeks. Within the next six years, the Crooked River Watershed Council expects to implement a total of five miles of stream restoration projects in the mainstem Crooked River, Ochoco Creek, and McKay Creek.
Fish Passage and Screening:
Through 2012, the Crooked River Watershed Council has addressed passage and screening at six of 11 sites. Given available funding, the Crooked River Watershed Council expects to complete the remaining five passage projects by the end of 2019. The most critical passage project remaining in the Crooked is Opal Springs dam located about one mile above the confluence with Lake Billy Chinook. This barrier blocks access to approximately 120 miles of habitat in the Crooked River as well as McKay and Ochoco Creeks.
The Crooked River Watershed Council will conduct community-level outreach focused on successful reintroduction of ESA-listed species into a working lands watershed. The outreach will be centered on ensuring that landowners, irrigators and others feel informed, engaged, aware and comfortable with the reintroduction as a positive influence in the watershed that will negatively affect their livelihood. The Crooked River Watershed Council will work with ODFW, NOAA, PGE, and others to design, develop, fund, and co-host an annual public forum on the topic of reintroduction in the Crooked River.