The 29th annual Fisheries Workshop happened on July 13 at the Deschutes County Fairgrounds in Redmond, OR. Despite having to change venues less than a week prior to the workshop, everything went great with almost 100 in-person attendees and a diverse agenda of presentations.
This annual event is a great opportunity to hear updates on the fish reintroduction program, learn more about restoration projects in the Deschutes Basin and network with biologists and other experts from PGE, the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs, Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife and U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service so plan on coming next year. We hope to see you there!
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With so much going on at the Pelton Round Butte Hydroelectric Project it can be hard to keep up. We want to make it easy for you, so visit this page often for regular updates about events, ongoing research and programs, and other topics of interest.
Aug. 2, 2022
Thank you to everyone who joined us – in-person or on Zoom – for our annual Deschutes Fisheries Workshop. If you missed the event, check out a recording of the workshop and list of timestamps for each presentation. Additional information and relevant studies referenced at the workshop can be found in the 2022 Workshop Resources document .
Sep. 3, 2021
As some of you might be aware, we’ve started the process of revising the project’s Water Quality Management and Monitoring Plan (WQMMP). Here’s a high-level review of what this document is, why it’s being revised, and what to expect from the process.
The WQMMP is a detailed document that describes the relevant water quality standards and monitoring and management plans at the project for various water quality objectives, such as dissolved oxygen (DO), temperature and pH. It also includes information on the timing and location of our monitoring, our plans for achieving water quality objectives and additional details.
When the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) issues a license for a hydroelectric project, the state or Native American Reservation where the project is located also issues a water quality certification, as required by section 401 of the Clean Water Act.
The Licensees – PGE and the Tribes – submitted proposed revisions of the WQMMP to DEQ in spring of 2020, with the goal of bringing the document up to date to reflect current state standards for temperature and dissolved oxygen (DO). Because the WQMMP is a condition of DEQ’s 401 certification, DEQ is processing the proposed WQMMP revisions as a modification to its 401 certification conditions.
There are no major operational changes planned as a result of this revision. The project has been operating for years to achieve the best balance of water quality and fish passage objectives under temporary documents called Interim Agreements. The proposed revisions are largely consistent with the Interim Agreements, simply incorporating current state standards into the WQMMP, our guiding document.
The WQMMP, as it currently stands, has been out of sync with current state standards for almost 20 years and does not sufficiently reflect information gained through operation of the SWW. Through this revision, the Licensees are hoping to bring our guiding documents up to date.
DEQ is considering the proposed WQMMP revisions and intends to issue a draft for public comment (at least a 60-day period) before making a final decision to approve the revised document. The Tribes’ WCB and FERC will also need to approve any revisions before the revised WQMMP can take effect.
Perhaps most importantly, there will be a formal process for you to review the proposed revisions to the WQMMP and to make up your own mind about the significance of the changes. We will share more information about the timing of the public process when it’s available to us.
Feel free to reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions.
Aug 11, 2021
– Megan Hill, natural resources manager at Pelton Round Butte Just a quick note to let you know where things stand with water temperature management at Pelton Round Butte. Currently, our discharge temperatures at Madras are 57.2⁰F (14.0⁰ C). The calculated without project temperature is 58.5⁰F (14.7⁰ C).
Our mandate for temperature management is to keep our discharge temperatures below, but as close as possible, to the WTP. This is currently being achieved by releasing 45% bottom water. As in previous years, we are now at the time of year, mid-August, when we move to fully open the bottom gates (resulting in 60% bottom water).
After consulting with our regulators (CTWS, ODFW and DEQ), this change was made today, August 11, meaning that we will be discharging the coolest water possible through these upcoming hot days. This is the temperature management program working as designed. By following the WTP, the cool bottom water reserves were saved for mid-August to September when it will be most needed, according to the EPA cold water refuge plan.
For those of you tracking dissolved oxygen, you will note that we’ve started spilling at the Reregulating Dam. Spilling is our main tool to boost oxygen levels in the lower river and ensure they stay above 9 mg/L or 98% saturation. D.O. levels are measured hourly, and spill schedule is adjusted accordingly. However, based on previous years’ operations we anticipate we will likely continue to spill water through mid-October.
Aug. 4, 2021
– Megan Hill, natural resources manager at Pelton Round Butte
Thank you to everyone who joined us for the 27th Annual Fisheries Workshop. For those of you who weren’t able to join, you can view the full recording online. And because we are kind and know that you probably don’t want to watch all 5.5 hours in one sitting, here is a guide to the video so you can fast-forward to presentations that pique your interest. Thanks to all the speakers who took time to prepare informative and engaging talks.
Reintroduction Roadmap – Megan Hill 8:55 – 19:00 I provided a short presentation on the Reintroduction Roadmap , tying our various projects (discussed in more detail throughout the day) to our long-term goal of restoring self-sustaining and harvestable runs of Chinook, sockeye and steelhead.
Lamprey and the Tribes – Lyman Jim 19:49 – 31:40 In many ways, this was my favorite presentation of the workshop. Lyman talked about the importance of lamprey to him personally and to the Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs. It was a welcomed break from the more science-focused presentations and helped remind us why we do this work and that there are other ways of learning about fishes.
Lamprey eDNA study – Jenna Keeton 35:12 – 49:27 Jenna presented on the first ever grant from the Pelton Round Butte Lamprey Research Fund. Tune in to learn about the application of this relatively new technology, eDNA, in the Deschutes Basin.
Pelton Fund Project Update – Mike Riehle 56:33 – 1:08:23 The USFS has a long history of habitat improvement projects in the Metolius. Learn about their latest efforts to improve stream habitat in cooperation with Trout Unlimited and Camp Caldera.
Biology of the Oregon Spotted Frog – Jennifer O’Reilly 1:16:43 – 1:32:58 Take a break from the policy side of the Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) to learn about the biology of the frog. In her talk, Jen started a discussion of the “mega drought,” which became a theme of the day as people talked about the changes they were seeing due to the high temperatures and low flows.
5-Year Hatchery Review – Dan Warren and Jeannie Heltzel 1:49:21 – 2:05:06 This one is for the procedure people out there. We have a license requirement to bring to you every five years a review of Round Butte Hatchery operations. Dan and Jeannie gave a concise summary of their efforts to review the program for consistency with 19 federal, regional, and state fish management plans, as well as the results of the 90-question Hatchery Program Viewer tool they used to complete their review. If you are interested in commenting on this draft report after watching this presentation, email email@example.com for a copy.
Water Quality Update – Lori Campbell 2:08:37 – 2:24:56 Lori reviewed the 2020 temperature, dissolved oxygen and pH monitoring results. We’ve been getting lots of questions about our temperature management this year, so she also spoke for a few minutes about our current temperatures. Finally, she ended with a quick walkthrough of the Fish Committee’s new water quality graphic, which shows some high-level water quality processes.
Smolt Acclimation – Terry Shrader 2:29:56 – 2:45:02 Terry discussed the evolution of our collaborative smolt acclimation program. He talked about our early results and ongoing challenges. Acclimation is one of the big changes we’re making that I think has the most opportunity to improve reintroduction results (especially when coupled with nighttime generation and a guide net).
Juvenile Migration – Gonzalo Mendez 2:48:27 – 3:05:25 Gonzalo covered highlights of our annual juvenile migration monitoring. He then segued to discuss some new monitoring we completed in 2020 where we used sonar to understand fish behavior in front of the collector. This study changed how we operated Round Butte in 2021 and provides insight into bull trout behavior.
SWW Downstream Passage and Stress Relief Pond – Rich Madden 3:10:22 – 3:24:03 Rich gave a report on our annual SWW passage numbers. He also talked about our new stress relief pond, which hopefully will give fish leaving the project a better chance of surviving to the ocean (and returning to us as adults).
Lower River Fishery Update – Jason Seals 3:28:57 – 3:49:06 Hear from Jason on the research ODFW is doing to monitor the fish populations in the Lower Deschutes. He talked about both encouraging and concerning trends in anadromous fish populations. He discussed the results of their redband trout population studies as well as ODFW’s efforts to track smallmouth bass use of the river.
Phase II Gravel Augmentation – Becky Burchell 3:51:00 – 4:05:39 In 2019, we placed gravel in the Lower Deschutes River to bolster fish habitat and support islands. Becky reported our initial evaluations to understand how fish are using the gravel.
Polychaete Sampling – Stacy Strickland 4:08:36 – 4:21:16 One question from the initial gravel study, completed in 2014, was if the new gravel deposits were increasing the habitat for the polychaetes (worms) that lead to C. shasta. Listen to Stacy’s talk to learn what she’s finding during the first year of her study.
Adult Returns to the Upper Deschutes Basin – Becky Burchell 4:25:37 – 4:43:28 Becky ended the day with a summary of the 2020 adult returns. They weren’t good. Thankfully, she also talked about what we’re seeing this year, and the 147 Chinook currently looking for spawning habitat upstream of the Project.
Aug. 2, 2021
– Megan Hill, natural resources manager at Pelton Round Butte
I’m excited to announce that we’re going to start using this page a little differently. Going forward, we’re going to use this space to provide updates from the biologists at Pelton Round Butte about what we are seeing in the field, and to address questions we’re hearing from you.
We already have several posts envisioned for the next month or so. Terry Shrader, fish biologist, is going to write about how the Project impacts Moody temperatures. Later this summer, Lori Campbell, water quality specialist, is going to talk about how the bottom water temperatures of Lake Billy Chinook change (or don’t) during drought conditions like we’re experiencing right now (and if we’re seeing any longer-term trends in bottom water temperatures).
I’m going to write about why we provide year-round fish passage, and how that relates to our temperature management program. Later in September, Becky Burchell, fisheries supervisor, will provide a synopsis of our 2021 spring Chinook run, and where those 147 fish spawned in the upper basin.
We hope you’ll be patient with us as we get this started; we know it won’t be perfect. Distilling information into short but accurate pieces is tough, but we will give it a try. For those of you who want to go deeper, we’ll try to provide links to the full reports/studies. I hope that over time this will be a reliable place for timely information about the project. Please continue to send us your questions and feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org as we try this out so we can make this as useful as possible.
July 21, 2021
Hot summer weather and drought are causing warm water temperatures and low flows throughout the West, including in the Deschutes River. These conditions can be alarming for river users, and – understandably – PGE is hearing a lot of questions.
Megan Hill, fish biologist and manager of biological services at Pelton Round Butte, shares some information about how PGE and the Tribes are managing these conditions.