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Updates & Events – 2018

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.

To subscribe to our monthly newsletter, send an email to Deschutes.Passage@pgn.com with the subject line “subscribe.” You can also direct questions to this email address as well.

Save the Date – Eagle Watch 2019

Dec. 13, 2018

Save the date for Eagle Watch 2019: Saturday, Feb. 23 through Sunday, Feb. 24, 2019 at Round Butte Overlook Park. 

Get ready for crafts, education stations, a hot dog lunch, traditional tribal dancing, and a silent auction to support ongoing golden eagle research. 

See the flyer for more details.

Eagle Watch Event - Feb. 23 through Feb. 24, 2019
Download the Eagle Watch 2019 Flyer

Monitoring Bull Trout in the Basin

Dec. 3, 2018

Bull trout, a salmonid species in the char family, are listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Like their salmon cousins, bull trout are sensitive to changes in water quality and temperature, and have suffered throughout much of their range from the degradation of habitat and the introduction of non-native species.

However, bull trout are so abundant in Lake Billy Chinook and the Metolius River that fish managers have allowed anglers to catch and keep these colorful fish (limited to one fish per day over 24 inches in Lake Billy Chinook). Bull trout are predators to kokanee and other small fish and require cold water with clean gravel for spawning.

Bull trout

How are bull trout monitored in the Deschutes basin?

The Selective Water Withdrawal (SWW) facility has enabled PGE and the Tribes to reconnect bull trout populations in the upper and lower Deschutes. Populations are monitored through angler surveys and an annual redd count, which has taken place every fall since 1986.

Biologists from the U.S. Forest Service, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs, and PGE identify bull trout redds (nests made of gravel) by looking for mounds of clean rock in distinctive shapes and locations. These redds look similar to those of other species, but compared to kokanee nests, are constructed with bigger pieces of gravel and take up a larger area.

PGE Fish Technician Jaym’e Schricker notes the location of a bull trout redd on the Metolius.
PGE Fish Technician Jaym’e Schricker notes the location of a bull trout redd on the Metolius.

What have we learned from the surveys?

Redd surveys over the last 32 years have shown that bull trout populations in the Metolius basin remain stable, thanks to proper management and consistent monitoring.

Mapping Redds on the Lower Deschutes

Oct. 25, 2018

It is a Thursday morning in October, and PGE staff are preparing for the day ahead. Fish biologist Micah Bennett and specialist Brad Wymore pull on waders, boots, and life jackets, grab technical equipment, and load up a boat, ready for a full day on the Lower Deschutes River.

They will repeat this routine every two weeks until July, mapping fall Chinook, steelhead and redband trout redds (fish nests made of gravel) while gathering extensive data on their size, location and condition.

All of this work to find and observe redds helps our scientists study spawning behavior and learn more about how fish are utilizing the river substrate.

Mapping fall Chinook, steelhead and redband trout redds

How does the study work?

Micah and Brad float down the river, stopping to wade at previously identified sites. We study the same sites each survey in order to compare results and observe changes over time.

When a redd is discovered, the perimeter is mapped for area and location. A number of additional measurements are recorded, including: the depth of the redd in three locations, the velocity of the river, the presence or absence of fish and the size of the gravel. This data is analyzed to gain a fuller understanding of the river substrate and how it is used by different fish species.

How do you find a redd?

Redds can be identified by certain distinctive features. The gravel will appear cleaner than normal and will be heaped into a mound. In front of the mound there will be a pit or cleared out divot. Biologists also know to look in predictable locations where the river flow and gravel size are attractive to fish.

Recording measurements

Visit the following resources to learn more:

PGE Staff Represent at the Association of Power Biologists Annual Conference

Oct. 4, 2018

Fisheries staff from Pelton Round Butte and PGE’s Westside Hydroproject attended the Association of Power Biologists annual conference in September. GIS specialist Brad Wymore tied for best presentation with his talk on golden eagle monitoring efforts.

Pictured (from left to right) Leah Hough, Lori Campbell, Terry Shrader, and Rich Madden.
Pictured (from left to right) Leah Hough, Lori Campbell, Terry Shrader, and Rich Madden.

Keeping an Eye on Kokanee

Sept. 5, 2018

Over the past few weeks, PGE staff and collaborating partners have been out on Lake Billy Chinook completing the first stage of our annual kokanee mark re-sight study.

What are kokanee?

Kokanee and sockeye salmon are two varieties of the same fish species. While sockeye are anadromous (migrating to the ocean and back to freshwater during their lifecycle), kokanee remain in freshwater lakes throughout their lifespan.

Kokanee salmon

How does the study work?

For three weeks every August, staff from the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs, PGE and ODFW work together to capture and mark adult kokanee that are beginning their migration to spawning grounds on the Metolius river.

A seine net is used to create a “purse” that collects the fish in the water. The net is pulled ashore and the kokanee are then transferred to a boat. The fish are transported upstream where they are marked with Floy tags. These tags are brightly colored and highly visible, allowing researchers to easily identify marked fish in the second stage of the study.

Later in September and October, kokanee (both tagged and un-tagged) are observed and counted, allowing researchers to estimate the abundance of spawning kokanee in the Metolius basin.

Seine net collecting fish in the water

What does the study show?

Dam construction in the 1960s cut off fish migration, essentially turning all Deschutes basin migrating sockeye into kokanee. As part of PGE’s reintroduction program, some of these fish are now transported downstream in order to reestablish a population of anadromous sockeye. This program has been successful, and we see adult sockeye returning each year.

The kokanee mark re-sight study helps us determine if the non-migrating kokanee are also still present and thriving in Lake Billy Chinook. In fall 2017, the study estimated that 435,000 kokanee spawned in the Metolius River — the largest population since the study began in 2009. The population has been consistently strong enough that ODFW recently raised the catch limit from 5 to 10 kokanee.

Watch the study in action

PGE Spotted at Oregon State Parks Day

Aug. 24, 2018

PGE attended Oregon State Parks Day in June, making fish prints with kids on the banks of Lake Billy Chinook.

PGE Parks & Recreation at Oregon State Parks Day
Making fish prints with kids on the banks of Lake Billy Chinook

Guest Column by the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs expresses support for PGE

Aug. 20, 2018

Eugene “Austin” Greene, chairman of the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs Tribal Council, wrote an editorial for the Bend Bulletin regarding the outcome of a lawsuit brought against PGE by the Deschutes River Alliance.

Judge Michael Simon ruled in favor of PGE earlier this month, dismissing allegations of water quality violations at the Pelton Round Butte Project. Greene expresses the Tribe’s support for PGE’s efforts to reintroduce healthy salmon and steelhead runs to the Deschutes basin.

Read the op-ed and see the judge’s full opinion and order.

Large Wood on the Lower Deschutes

July 30, 2018

While exploring the lower Deschutes river, keep your eyes peeled for logs tagged with a bright yellow sign reading “Fisheries Research Project: Please Do Not Disturb.” These pieces of wood are part of PGE’s Large Wood Management Plan, an ongoing project to place, study, and monitor logs in the lower river.

Large wood on the Lower Deschutes

Why does PGE place large wood in the lower river?

Large pieces of wood are an important component of wildlife habitat. Juvenile fish need logs for shelter from predators, while large fish rely on wood as a hunting ground. Logs can also trap and retain gravel that adult fish need for making their redds

Other animals, including birds, otters, and amphibians can also be spotted making use of downed trees. Just as dams can impede fish migration, they also cut off the downstream movement of woody debris.

By placing logs from upstream into the lower river, PGE is helping to reconnect this vital aspect of the ecosystem.

How does the study work?

Logs that meet certain criteria are collected from Lake Billy Chinook and placed downstream of the Pelton Round Butte project. These pieces of wood are left unanchored to allow for their natural movement in the river.

PGE biologists perform annual snorkel surveys to determine whether fish and wildlife are utilizing the large wood. We are currently in the monitoring phase of the study, performing surveys and tracking the location of our logs.

The next round of large wood placement will take place in summer 2019. Last year’s study showed an increased use of large wood by fish as a result of the placement.

Large wood on the Lower Deschutes

Large wood on the Lower Deschutes

What can you do?

If you see a tagged log in the lower river, please leave it where it is. Disturbing the large wood could negatively impact fish and wildlife. Do your part to allow the free and natural movement of wood downstream and along the banks.

For more information on large wood in the lower Deschutes, check out this helpful fact sheet.

Welcome Back Sockeye!

July 30, 2018

Sockeye salmon have recently begun showing up at the Pelton trap, with a total of 14 adults having arrived over the last few weeks. We are optimistic that we will see a strong run this year, especially of one-salt sockeye (fish that spent one year in the ocean).

In 2017, we captured, marked, and released nearly 450,000 sockeye smolts downstream – we expect this year class to have high returns in 2018 and even greater numbers in 2019. The sockeye run should peak near mid-August. Join us in wishing the salmon good luck on their return journey upstream.

Pelton sockeye salmon

Pelton sockeye salmon
PGE and ODFW staff celebrate the first adult sockeye salmon return of the season

2018 Fisheries Workshop in Bend, Ore. – June 13-14

This two-day workshop highlights the latest strategies, progress and next steps in our shared work to restore the watershed and achieve healthy, sustainable salmon and steelhead populations in the Upper and Lower Deschutes. Learn more.

2018 Pelton Round Butte Project Fisheries Workshop Agenda

See the agenda for the upcoming workshop, June 13-14.