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Crooked River Fish Protection

Legislation Threatens Crooked River Water Flows and Spawning Areas

Congressman Greg Walden has proposed legislation that would impact a part of the Wild and Scenic reach of the Crooked River, as well as water stored in the Prineville Reservoir located behind Bowman Dam. This bill will: 1) establish a first fill priority for irrigation purposes over all other uses of water, 2) does not provide for allocation of existing uncontracted water to improve downstream habitat for fish and wildlife, and 3) will move the existing Wild and Scenic River boundary downstream into an established fish spawning area to accommodate the addition of a hydropower plant at Bowman Dam.

Background

Steelhead ReturnsFirst Fall Steelhead Returns, October 2011

Portland General Electric (PGE) and the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs will spend an estimated $360 million to re-establish salmon and steelhead runs to the upper Deschutes basin. The economic impact of a robust fishery below Bowman Dam for Redband trout, steelhead, and Chinook salmon is in the range of $20-$50 million per year based on economic studies of similar tailwater fisheries in western states. Moreover, the community overwhelmingly supports this reintroduction effort and the associated job growth opportunities. HB2060 is destructive to that effort by diverting necessary fish water flows to irrigation purposes and potentially destroying existing spawning areas.

Sierra Club Opposes HB2060 as Written

Any legislation regarding change in the existing boundary of the Wild and Scenic reach of the Crooked River should incorporate measures that will achieve a balance in the distribution of the 82,000 acre feet of unallocated storage space in the Prineville Reservoir. At a minimum, we believe that any legislation addressing movement of the Wild and Scenic boundary downstream to permit construction of a hydropower plant at Bowman Dam should include the following measures:

  1. Project Authorization: Authorize fish and wildlife as purposes of the Bowman Dam project and allow year-round flow releases for downstream fish and wildlife purposes.
  2. Allocation: Allocate existing un-contracted water space to improve downstream habitat for fish and wildlife subject to water for the City of Prineville and water for existing irrigation contracts under proportional inflow management.
  3. Water for the City of Prineville: Provide the City of Prineville with the amount of water from Prineville Reservoir, not to exceed 5,100 acre feet, for in-stream flow to serve as mitigation for groundwater pumping up to 5,100 acre feet by the City of Prineville.
  4. Wild and Scenic River Boundary Move: Move the Wild and Scenic River boundary no more than one-quarter mile downstream from its existing boundary for the sole purpose of accommodating the potential addition of a hydropower plant at Bowman Dam.
  5. Existing Law: Provide that nothing in the proposed legislative language amends, supersedes or alters any obligations under the Endangered Species Act (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.); or the National Environmental Policy Act (42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.).

What We Have Done

The Sierra Club has written a letter to Senators Wyden and Merkley opposing this legislation. Click on Crooked River Fish to read this letter. We will continue publicly advocate modification of HB2060 to protect fish by providing adequate water flows and protection of spawning areas within the existing Wild and Scenic River designation.

What You Can Do

Join us in writing to Senators Wyden and Merkley in opposing this bill, and maybe even a letter to Representative Walden will help. You can also write to the local media expressing your opposition and advocating fish friendly modifications to the bill. For addresses and phone numbers of media and politicians, go to our Advocacy Contact Information page.

Summary

There is enough water in the reservoir to sustain robust salmon and steelhead runs, with very little if any effect on irrigation or Prineville Reservoir recreation. The Sierra Club advocates protecting a substantial fishery reintroduction investment, rather than addressing only the interest of irrigators in the Prineville valley. This would ensure a win-win for the greater Central Oregon region.