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The project is the latest in a series of efforts to aid migratory salmon and steelhead in Central Oregon

COURTESY PHOTO: DESCHUTES LAND TRUST - An aerial view of the creeks running through Ochoco Preserve, which will soon be the site of a major restoration project.

Portland General Electric and the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs, co-owners of the Pelton Round Butte hydroelectric project on the Deschutes River, announced Oct. 19 a $1 million grant to the Deschutes Land Trust for habitat restoration aiding migratory salmon in the Crooked River.

The grant was awarded through a special round of funding from the Pelton Round Butte Fund, through which PGE and the Tribes have contributed more than $27 million to 57 habitat and water quality projects in the Deschutes Basin over the last 15 years.

The Land Trust plans to use this funding to complete the first phase of a major restoration at Ochoco Preserve, the organization's 185-acre wetland and wildlife preserve outside of Prineville. The project includes floodplain restoration, development of side-channel and wetland habitat, and construction of an acclimation pond for juvenile fish.

"Supporting projects in the Crooked River is one of the best ways we can improve conditions for both juvenile and adult fish," says Megan Hill, PGE natural resources manager and director of the Pelton Round Butte salmon reintroduction program.

Since 2010, PGE and the Tribes have been advancing an ambitious, long-term effort to restore sustainable populations of salmon and steelhead to the Deschutes Basin, including the Crooked and Metolius rivers.

"We're finding that more returning adult fish are choosing to travel up the Crooked River compared to the other tributaries upstream of Lake Billy Chinook, so it's critical for these fish to have high-quality habitat when they arrive."

COURTESY PHOTO: DESCHUTES LAND TRUST - McKay Creek near the Crooked River at Ochoco Preserve.The first phase of restoration at Ochoco Preserve, beginning in spring 2022, will focus on McKay Creek – a tributary to the Crooked. Construction crews will realign the creek to its historic floodplain and add more side channels, wetlands and natural structures to improve habitat for fish and wildlife. The Land Trust will also build an acclimation pond that will eventually be used to hold juvenile spring Chinook and summer steelhead instream prior to release, a practice that helps fish imprint on the river's unique scent and improves their chances of successfully returning as adults.

Finally, part of the restoration process will also include identifying locations for future trails and educational sites so the Land Trust can share the preserve with the community.

"The Land Trust is so grateful for this funding from the Pelton Round Butte Fund," said Rika Ayotte, executive director of the Deschutes Land Trust. "It helps continue our long-term partnership with PGE and the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs to conserve and restore habitat for salmon and steelhead throughout Central Oregon."

In addition to supporting habitat restoration in the Crooked River, PGE and the Tribes also recently provided funding to the new fish ladder at Opal Springs Dam and to the Crooked River Water Quality Partnership – a group developing a strategic action plan addressing water quality in the Crooked River Basin. Together, these investments are helping create accessible and hospitable fish habitat in this high-impact river system.

COURTESY PHOTO: DESCHUTES LAND TRUST - Deschutes Land Trust and PGE partners work together to place juvenile Chinook salmon into temporary acclimation pens, called live cars, at Ochoco Creek.


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