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Fish Passage

Restoring fish passage on the Deschutes

Nothing is more inherently “Oregon” than our iconic salmon and steelhead runs.

Together with our partners, PGE and the Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs Reservation of Oregon are working to restore sustainable, healthy native salmon and steelhead populations in the Upper Deschutes while continuing to generate clean, renewable power for Oregon.

How it works

Juvenile sockeye, spring Chinook, steelhead and bull trout migrate from the Crooked, Deschutes and Metolius Rivers to our Fish Transfer Facility in Lake Billy Chinook where they receive a special mark identifying their origination.

Our scientists also apply small tracking devices to some fish so we can follow their journey from the river to the ocean and back.

From there, fish are transported by truck and released into the Lower Deschutes, below the hydro project.

When adult fish return from the ocean, they enter a fish trap, located at the base of the dam. They are transported and released in Lake Billy Chinook, to continue their journey home to spawn.

We are known across the nation for our safe and effective movement of juvenile and adult fish. Because of our success, agencies, organizations and utilities come to the Deschutes River Basin to learn about our facilities and operations.

Selective Water Withdrawal: An innovative solution

The Selective Water Withdrawal system is integral to our fish passage efforts.

We constructed the 273-foot tall Selective Water Withdrawal Tower in 2010 to help transport fish.

The system moves us toward the big-picture goal of long-term sustainability — for the salmon and steelhead populations, the regional watershed and the economy. It does the following:

  • Creates reservoir currents that guide juvenile salmon and steelhead into collection facilities so they can be transported downstream around the dams.
  • Mixes water from the surface and bottom of Lake Billy Chinook so water released below the dams more closely matches conditions expected if the dams weren’t there.

We were honored to win an Outstanding Steward’s of America’s Waters award from the National Hydropower Association in 2011 for design and implementation of the Selective Water Withdrawal. The award recognizes our innovative work to generate clean, renewable, and affordable power while protecting the ecosystem.

See it for yourself. Contact us to get a tour of the Selective Water Withdrawal system.

Early success

We are starting to see significant progress toward our long-term goal. For the first time in nearly 50 years, adult salmon and steelhead are now making it upstream, swimming more than 200 miles to complete their natural life cycle.

While we still have a ways to go, the impact of long-term success is well worth the effort.

In collaboration with our partners, we conduct monitoring and studies to measure our progress and success, including:

  • Juvenile rearing and migration
  • Adult capture, migration and spawning
  • Native fish monitoring, including habitat evaluations

From thriving riverbanks and beautiful natural areas to healthy fish and lake and river recreation that is second to none, we are committed to ensuring that the Upper and Lower Deschutes remain a sustainable treasure for generations to come.