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C.O. anglers upset over big Deschutes fish kill

By John Hendricks
Published On: Oct 22 2013 01:18:55 AM CDT
Updated On: Oct 22 2013 05:12:36 PM CDT

NewsChannel 21's John Hendricks reports on the call for policy change on the Deschutes river following a massive fish kill.

SISTERS, Ore. -

The flow of water out of Wickiup Reservoir a month ago was 934 cubic feet per second (cfs). Since then, it's been lowered slowly to 32cfs. That drop has caused some channels to dry up and thousands of fish to die, sparking a debate over how much water should be released in the fall.

Monday afternoon, the Oregon Water Resource Department said the levels are still at 32 cfs and there were no plans to raise the outflow.

Each fall, the department reduces water flows into the Deschutes to store water for irrigation for the coming summer months. Wickiup and Crane Prairie reservoirs were formed for that exact purpose.

Over the last few years, Central Oregon has seen above-average snowpack, meaning more water could be released during the fall.

But this year, there was a lower than normal snowpack, meaning less water released. That has lowered water levels in the Deschutes several miles downstream, leaving some fish stranded in pools, other left on dry riverbanks to die.

The images posted online at KTVZ.COM have sparked a debate about the current water policy.

"I think there are a lot of people that all of the sudden have become environmental advocates out of the woodwork," The Flyfisher's Place owner Jeff Perin said Monday.

He's been leading a charge since last week, trying to find a way to make a change.

Perin, who has been a guide in Central Oregon for 27 years, says the thousands of fish found dead has been the buzz among anglers visiting his Sisters shop.

"It's mostly anger," Perin said. "People are really, really disappointed, and also saddened."

He adds that this has happened before, but not this bad. Perin says he hopes that with so many people paying attention on social media, things will change.

"I want it to be that everybody that uses the water, from recreationists to fishermen to the irrigators, all have a fair stake in this game," he said.

The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife is still considering whether or not to close the Deschutes River to fishing from Benham Falls to Wickiup Reservoir.

Officials told NewsChannel 21 Monday afternoon they are studying how many anglers are on the river and if an emergency closure would be warranted, since the season is suppose to close on Oct. 31.

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