If you were a salmon who hatched between 1964 and 2010, the Deschutes River was a tough neighborhood. The Pelton-Round Butte Dam near Madras, completed in 1964, provides enough hydroelectricity to power a city of 150,000 people. But the dam has had unforeseen effects on currents and water temperatures in the Deschutes.
Since the dam's completion, the Metolius, the Crooked, and the Deschutes Rivers join together in three reservoirs, the largest being Lake Billy Chinook. Cool water from the Metolius sinks to the bottom of the lake, while warm water from the Deschutes and Crooked Rivers at the top of the lake flows up the Metolius. Until recently, the water near the dam mixed together, eliminating distinct temperature gradients and currents required by salmon to navigate, and the fish were unable to find the downstream passage on the dam. In 1968, both upstream and downstream fish passages were closed and a hatchery was established to maintain the salmon population in the lower portion of the river.
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AN UPSTREAM BATTLE: RESTORING WHYCHUS CREEK
Whychus Creek, a tributary of the Deschutes River, is located near Sisters, Oregon. Ten years ago, parts of this river not only had no fish, they had no water. Irrigation withdrawals, land use changes, and dams had combined to eliminate the thousands of steelhead and Chinook salmon that once started and finished their lives in that creek. In the last fifteen years, however, a gradual shift has occurred in the Whychus Creek area and also in much of the Deschutes Basin: a coalition of landowners, citizens, nonprofits, private companies, and government agencies have come together to restore the creek as a home for migratory fish.
Read An Upstream Battle, the Story of Restoring Whychus Creek