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A river dribbles through it

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Matt Jenkins did a nice job of covering stream restoration on the middle section of the Deschutes river, but he completely ignored the significant problems in the upper river.

He writes, "Upstream from Bend, the river boils silvery green … charging through craggy chutes resplendent with ponderosa pine and Douglas fir (actually there’s a lot more jackpine), before it slows and widens …" Hey, Matt, it "slows and widens" way above the outskirts of Bend. Two dams, Crane Prairie and Wickiup, handcuff the river shortly below its source. These dams are the domain of four irrigation districts in the Deschutes Basin, and as a result the Upper River is far from healthy.

I look out the windows of our home on the banks of the Big Deschutes and see no "shimmering and frothy cascades." Instead my view is mostly of muddy banks with an occasional sandbar. There is a river, but right now it hardly warrants the designation "wild and scenic." It is a sorry piddle of a stream now, so shallow in many spots that one can easily wade across. The reason behind this sad situation is the need of the irrigation districts to impound water behind the dams in winter months. All this is reversed in the spring when water is released in such volume as to savagely erode banks and produce significant silting.

Wes Perrin
Bend, Oregon

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