Last summer the Wickiup Reservoir dried to just 1% of its capacity, the lowest it has been since it was built in 1949. In an average year the reservoir, which stores Deschutes River water, would be at about 25% of its capacity at the end of irrigation season, with just over 63,000 acre-feet. Last year’s shortage illustrated a decade of drought and generous allocations of water rights.
This shortage continued this year, and the reservoir is holding just over 60% of what it was last year and less than 40% of what it usually stores in June. This challenge arrives just months after the approval of the Deschutes Basin Habitat Conservation Plan for the Deschutes, submitted by eight irrigation district that reimagines what the Deschutes will look like.
“With the habitat conservation plan the focus is on increasing winter flows, and also bringing down the summer flows,” Deschutes River Conservancy Executive Director Kate Fitzpatrick said.
The natural unimpeded flow of the river runs at about 600 cubic feet per second in the winter and over 1,000 cfs at its peak in the summer. The DBHCP doesn’t seek to restore the river to its natural flow, but to support habitats for the Oregon spotted frog and Redband trout. The goal is to maintain flows between 4-500 cfs in the winter to support springtime breeding grounds for the frog, listed as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act. The Redband trout, meanwhile, is listed as a “species of concern.”
“Both need more water, but the Oregon spotted frog has very specific breeding flow needs in the…