Low Water Leaves Scores of Fish Dead on Upper Deschutes | Bent | Bend | The Source Weekly - Bend, Oregon
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Low Water Leaves Scores of Fish Dead on Upper Deschutes 

This brown trout and smaller rainbow trout are just a few of the victims of our antiquated water management policies.
  • Jeff P.
  • This brown trout and smaller rainbow trout are just a few of the victims of our antiquated water management policies.

Countless fish now lay dead on the banks of the Upper Deschutes, stranded after the Water Resources Department reverted to extremely low winter flow rates earlier this week.

What's perhaps even more depressing than the scores of wild trout, whitefish and sculpin that annually are left for dead, is that for nearly a century the state has allowed such mismanagement. Why? Because water allocations and release schedules at Wickiup Reservoir, put into place in the early part of the 20th century, have long favored farmers who demand water for irrigation. During the summer (warm months) the watermaster releases so much water that up to 1,800 cubic feet per second flows through Bend, enough to satiate the farmers and their fields. But come fall/winter (mid Oct.) the demand for irrigation is nill and the water coming out of Wikiup—the water that feeds the once mighty Deschutes River—is all but cutoff, leaving thousands of fish, quite literally, high and dry.

This year, though, the massive fish kill that followed the reduced winter flows was especially severe.

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