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Awards are for wildlife habitat and water quality improvement projects across Central Oregon.

SUBMITTED PHOTO - The Priday Ranch Steelhead Conservation Project is an effort by the Deschutes Land Trust to protect 5,820 acres of grassland and sagebrush habitat in the Trout Creek subbasin, where redband trout and threatened summer steelhead spawn and rear. By purchasing the ranch property and dedicating water rights to in-stream flow, the Land Trust hopes to improve habitat connectivity, water quality and surface flow.Portland General Electric and the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs have announced $4.5 million in grants to 13 new fish passage, wildlife habitat and water quality improvement projects across Central Oregon. Individual grants range in size from $51,000 to $1.25 million.

Over the past 15 years, PGE and CTWS –- co-managers of the three-dam Pelton Round Butte Hydroelectric Project near Madras –- have distributed $26.5 million through a joint fund earmarked to support a healthy environment for fish and wildlife in the Deschutes Basin. The 2020 cycle represents the fifth round of grants from this fund, which PGE and the Tribes established in 2005 during federal relicensing of the hydroelectric project. Pelton Round Butte is the largest hydro project located entirely within Oregon and generates enough emissions-free electric power to serve a city the size of Salem.

"The Tribe continues to believe that working together is much more effective than trying to accomplish these objectives alone," said Jim Manion, general manager of Warm Springs Power & Water Enterprises. "Together we can achieve great outcomes."

A team of representatives from PGE, CTWS, and federal, tribal and state agencies selected projects to fund after reviewing applications submitted in 2019, hearing presentations and conducting site visits. The funded projects are dispersed throughout the basin, from Whychus Creek in the south to Log Springs Meadow north of Warm Springs; stretching east from the Ochoco National Forest all the way to Link Creek, west of Black Butte.

As part of the 2005 relicensing, PGE and the Tribes committed with 20 other local, state and federal agencies and nonprofit organizations to restore historic salmon and steelhead runs cut off from the middle and upper Deschutes Basin when the dams were built in the 1950s and 1960s. Working with the partner organizations, the co-managers reestablished fish passage around the dams in 2010. They've since passed more than 1.4 million juvenile salmon and steelhead downstream to migrate to the ocean. Adult fish have returned to the project every year since the new fish passage system began operating, with spawning confirmed near Bowman Dam on the Crooked River, in Whychus Creek at Camp Polk, and above Camp Sherman on the Metolius River.

The co-managers' and their partner organizations' shared long-term goal is to build sustainable, harvestable runs of spring Chinook and sockeye salmon and summer steelhead in the basin. Their program focuses on using good science to adapt reintroduction strategies over time as the participants learn more about the needs of the fish and the challenges they face returning to their historic habitat after a four-decade absence. An interactive "roadmap" of reintroduction efforts is available online at www.PRBFishCommittee.com.

"When we started our long-term reintroduction program on the Deschutes, we recognized the importance of investing not just in fish passage, but also in quality fish habitat," said Megan Hill, the PGE biologist who leads the fisheries and water quality team at Pelton Round Butte. "Through the Pelton Fund, we've been able to support the incredible work of our partners throughout the region, and we're proud to continue this basin-wide collaboration with our 2020 grants."

More information about the Pelton Fund and an interactive map of past projects can be found at portlandgeneral.com/peltonfund.

PGE and the Tribes have also recently launched a new grant opportunity specifically benefitting Pacific lamprey in the Lower Deschutes River. Like salmon, lamprey are ecologically and culturally significant to river ecosystems and have experienced population decline over the decades. By contributing $3 million to restoration and research projects targeting lamprey, PGE and the Tribes hope to learn more about how to serve these unique and often-overlooked creatures. Interested applicants can find more information at portlandgeneral.com/lampreyfund.


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