- Associated Press - Friday, October 10, 2014

BEND, Ore. (AP) - With this irrigation season ending, managers of Central Oregon water reservoirs are preparing for a refill.

Drier than usual conditions on the east side of the Cascade Range and a fish kill on the Deschutes River last year have intensified attention on water levels in the region.

The last 12 months have been dry, but higher-than-expected flows into two major Deschutes River reservoirs have left them in better shape than expected as the region awaits rain and snowmelt between now and early spring, the Bulletin newspaper (https://bit.ly/1s2BkVa) reported.

“We didn’t run the reservoirs down as low as we thought they would,” said the watermaster for the state Water Resources Department in Bend, Jeremy Giffin.

As of Thursday, he said, Wickiup Reservoir was 25 percent full and Crane Prairie Reservoir was 54 percent full.

The department will start filling the reservoirs in earnest next week, as irrigation districts end their diversions.

Doing so will reduce flows downstream along the Deschutes River.

The annual cut in river flows, which can drop the water level by as much as 2½ feet, will be stretched out this year, taking closer to two weeks rather than three or four days.

The change is because of a fish kill last October in a side channel to the Deschutes River near Lava Island Falls when hundreds of fish died after becoming trapped. Slowing the change will give U.S. Forest Service scientists a chance to study the river at different levels, Giffin said.

In hopes of not losing fish again this year, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife and a team of volunteers are bracing for a fish rescue and relocation program the week of Oct. 20.

Volunteers plan to haul fish pulled from dwindling pools of water in buckets equipped with aerators. They’ll carry buckets full of fish from the side channel up a trail along the Deschutes River and then dump them into the river.

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Information from: The Bulletin, https://www.bendbulletin.com

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