Updates & Events

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.

Tracking Golden Eagles

Nov. 22, 2016

PGE wildlife biologists, Robert Marheine and Thad Fitzhenry, are excited by the results of a five-year study of golden eagles that they recently completed in collaboration with the Bureau of Land Management. The study objectives were to learn information about home ranges and general behavior of golden eagles during the breeding and non-breeding season.

Biologists captured eight golden eagles at bait stations using either a bow net or net launcher. The researchers then attached radio tracking devices to the eagles using a very light backpack harness designed to eventually fall off the bird. Using satellite tracking they could then “follow” the birds to learn about their travel patterns and behavior.

Some of the golden eagles were “homebodies” and stayed within an 8 mile radius of their nest. To the research team’s surprise, other birds wandered as much as 80 miles and flew up to the crest of the Cascade Mountains.

Another surprising observation occurred when a male eagle died after biologists had been tracking it and its mate for a year and a half. Two months later the female found a new male. This new pair of birds were found in their territory together, but they also traveled separately and sometimes at great distances apart. Eventually the new male took control over the nest and territory. The female left her old territory, found a new mate, produced eggs, and stayed close to her new nest site. The eagles were often found sitting at the rim of the canyons, most likely searching for food.

What’s the greater message from the study? Thad observes that “the eagles have a definitive home range but they will roam depending on factors such as food availability, death of a mate, age, distance to other territories, and other factors not known.”

He also notes that the eagles definitely showed a preference for shrub-type habitats, with territories around the Pelton Round Butte Project that are tightly packed and could be under threat from continued habitat conversion as land in Central Oregon is developed for other uses.

Tracking Golden Eagles

Whole Lot of Sampling Going On

Nov. 8, 2016

As the second season of an intensive, three-year water quality study on the Deschutes River wraps up, Lori Campbell, water quality specialist with Portland General Electric, will have to wait one more year for independent consultants to deliver results and modeling from the study, expected late 2017 or early 2018.

The study spanned 29 locations in the project reservoirs and the lower Deschutes River. Water quality technicians collected a lot of data and samples, including measurements of temperature, dissolved oxygen, pH, conductivity, alkalinity, chlorophyll a, chloride, algae growth, nutrients and zooplankton.

Why such an intensive study? Portland General Electric and the Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs Reservation of Oregon are responsible for water temperature management where the river exits their jointly-owned Pelton Round Butte Hydroelectric Project. Our temperature management goal is to closely match water temperatures that would be expected at that point on the river, based on conditions on a given day, if the hydro project were not there.

When one factor changes in the river, such as temperature, other factors in the river ecosystem will likely be affected. PGE and the Tribes commissioned this intensive study to better understand and document any changes that may have occurred since the temperature management program began in 2010.

Deschutes water quality study
Deschutes water quality study
Deschutes water quality study
Deschutes water quality study

Whychus Creek Native Planting Day!

Oct. 31, 2016

“Together We Make It Happen.” This was the message from Brad Chalfant, Deschutes Land Trust’s executive director, regarding the restoration of Whychus Canyon Preserve.

On Oct. 11, staff from the Deschutes Land Trust hosted an event at the Preserve to plant native vegetation in the newly-reconstructed riparian zone and channel of Whychus Creek. Staff from both PGE’s Pelton Round Butte Office and the CTWSRO (Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs Reservation of Oregon) participated. Together with Deschutes Land Trust staff, they planted native trees, sedges, grasses and shrubs in the riparian zone.

“We’re letting the creek decide where it wants to flow,” was the message from Sarah Mowry, the outreach director with Deschutes Land Trust, explaining the goal of the restoration efforts.

Whychus Canyon Preserve includes 930 acres protecting four miles of Whychus Creek. Back in the 1960s the creek was straightened and bermed for flood control and other reasons, but with the unintended result of diminished fish and wildlife habitat. With the help of multiple partners including the Upper Deschutes Watershed Council, Deschutes National Forest, CTWSRO and PGE’s Pelton Round Butte Fund (for land acquisition), this restoration project restored 1 mile of Whychus Creek, with more planned for 2017.

Restoration includes putting the creek back into a meandering channel with side channels that provide critical habitat where fish can spawn, rear, and hide. Chinook salmon and adult steelhead have already returned to Whychus Creek since reintroduction efforts began.

Whychus Creek Native Planting Day
Whychus Creek Native Planting Day

Electrofishing

Oct. 18, 2016

If you see a crew from PGE in the creek using a backpack that looks like something out of a Ghostbusters movie, you would be witnessing a crew electrofishing. This method is what biologists use to capture fish using an electrical current. When the electrofisher is activated, the electricity causes the fish to swim in a controlled way that makes them easy to net.

As you can imagine electrofishing requires a special permit, expertise, and safety measures. The purpose of electrofishing is to catch as many fish as possible to obtain a population estimate; all fish are returned to the stream unharmed after the survey. These surveys have been going on prior to the salmon and steelhead reintroduction efforts in 2007 and every year after. Electrofishing surveys are conducted where fish have been released which is in the mainstem Deschutes River and its tributaries.

Electrofishing
Electrofishing

Deschutes River sockeye return to the spawning grounds

10/05/2016

After hearing reports from landowners of adult sockeye salmon spawning in the upper Metolius tributaries, PGE biologists headed out recently to observe them firsthand. On a quick afternoon field trip we found three tagged adult sockeye on spawning grounds upstream of the Metolius River. These are sockeye that are near completion of their life cycle, beginning with rearing in Deschutes Basin tributaries then migrating to the ocean to grow and returning to fresh water one to two years later to spawn.

Over 500 sockeye have returned to the Pelton trap, to date, in 2016. Of those caught at the Pelton trap, 445 were passed over the dams, and the rest were used as brood stock at the Pelton Round Butte Hatchery. We gave sockeye that were caught at the Pelton trap a neon green tag (some were also given a radio tag) and released them in Lake Billy Chinook. Using radio telemetry, we’ve found that it takes about one month for an adult sockeye salmon to migrate to the spawning grounds.

Adult sockeye salmon have been observed on various tributaries throughout the upper Deschutes River Basin – a promising indicator in the ongoing, collaborative effort between the Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs Reservation Oregon, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife and Portland General Electric to restore wild salmon runs to their historic habitat in the upper Deschutes Basin.

Adult sockeye returns to upper Deschutes Basin to spawn
Adult sockeye returns to upper Deschutes Basin to spawn

Facilitating and monitoring large wood migration for improved fish habitat

09/07/2016

Have you ever noticed large pieces of wood in the lower Deschutes River with yellow tags? These tags mark wood that PGE has taken from above Lake Billy Chinook and placed downstream of the Reregulating Dam. We have done this for the past ten years, placing over 300 pieces of large woody debris into the lower river. Each piece is marked with a small round metal tags and a large yellow plastic “Do Not Disturb” tag.

Why place wood in the lower river? When trees along the stream bank die, they fall into the river, where they help stabilize stream banks and provide habitat for salmon and other aquatic life. When the Pelton Round Butte Project dams were constructed by PGE in the late 1950s and early 1960s, large wood from tributaries ended up in Lake Billy Chinook rather than being naturally transported downstream to the lower Deschutes River.

Our large woody debris management program is designed to reconnect large wood transport to the lower river. The logs we place in the lower river are not anchored, so we record the location of each piece when initially placed and then annually track its movements downstream by floating down the river with a boat along the banks and log jams looking for logs with visible tags.

We recently spent two weeks looking for large woody debris from the Reregulation dam down to Harpham Flats. When we find a marked log we record its tags, add new yellow plastic tags if the old ones are faded, and take a GPS point. Some logs we have tracked for several years as they slowly move down the river. Some logs move once, wash up on shore, and don’t move again. Others we never see as they likely become incorporated into downstream habitat or break up into multiple pieces.

An example of one of our tags. This log was found between Trout Creek and White Horse Rapids.
An example of one of our tags. This log was found between Trout Creek and White Horse Rapids.

Fallen logs provide habitat for salmon and other aquatic organisms.
Fallen logs provide habitat for salmon and other aquatic organisms.

These sockeye know how to run!

08/10/2016

This year’s sockeye run is still breaking records, with 73 returning adults captured on Monday, August 8 alone and released to the upper Deschutes River tributaries to spawn.

At this point more than 300 sockeye have returned to the Pelton Round Butte Project so far this year – more than three times the number that have returned in any single year since PGE and the Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs began the reintroduction program in 2010 to bring these fish back to the upper Deschutes basin after a four decade hiatus.

The run is expected to continue for several more weeks, so stay tuned for more updates or keep an eye on our daily fish counts.

Deschutes sockeye

Sockeye – record returns this week

07/29/2016

Adult sockeye are returning to the Pelton Trap in record numbers this year! So far we have captured 176 adults. Sockeye began returning to the trap in 2011, with the previous record in 2012 with 86 returns. But that high was smashed in the week of July 25, alone, with 144 returning adults. This is exciting news for the Deschutes River.

Once collected at the trap, each sockeye is measured, its fin clipped for genetic sample, scales pulled for aging, and each is sexed using a portable ultrasound machine for accurate sex ratios. This data collection is a joint agency effort between PGE, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, and the Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs.

Using the portable ultrasound machine to determine sex
Using the portable ultrasound machine to determine sex
Collecting scales for aging each fish
Collecting scales for aging each fish

2016 Fisheries Workshop

July 13, 2016

Thanks to everyone who joined us for the workshop this year! Our 22nd Fisheries Workshop was held in Madras on June 22 to 23. Our primary goal was to increase participants understanding of the Pelton Round Butte Project and other projects ongoing in the Deschutes river basin.

A variety of topics were covered during the workshop and the presenters did an outstanding job of sharing their expertise with everyone. If you would like to contact any presenter with questions please see the abstracts and biographies.

Mark your calendars for the 2017 workshop – June 27 to 29. We’re expanding next year’s event to include a fish facilities tour on the 27th. Fisheries presentations will be on the 28th and habitat presentations on the 29th. Check back with us next year for more information.

PGE and the CTWS wish you the best over the summer and through the remainder of the year. We hope to see you next June for the 2017 Fisheries Workshop.

Sincerely,
Pelton Round Butte Project Team

Snorkel surveys give PGE a close-up look at the fish

June 30, 2016

This week we’ve been out snorkeling in the Metolius River and Lake Creek to look for juvenile Chinook. As part of salmon reintroduction above Round Butte Dam, Chinook fry have been released into the Metolius and its tributaries annually since 2008.

There are two snorkel sites on the main stem Metolius and three sites on a tributary called Lake Creek. Two snorkelers make two to three upstream passes through the site. We count the number of juvenile Chinook observed, with each snorkeler covering an equal portion of the stream during each pass. Snorkelers alternate sides of the stream after each pass to control for bias. We record Chinook size class and habitat unit for each fish observed.

We then attempt to capture at least 20 fish by dip net while snorkeling in order to measure how much they have grown between our four seasonal sampling periods, which are fry release (winter), May through June (spring), July through August (summer), and September through October (fall). Once measured and weighed, the fish are returned to the collection site.

A juvenile Chinook captured by dip net
A juvenile Chinook captured by dip net
PGE biologist snorkeling in Lake Creek for juvenile Chinook
PGE biologist snorkeling in Lake Creek for juvenile Chinook

DEQ comments on the Deschutes Macroinvertebrate and Periphyton Study

June 23, 2016

In April this year, PGE and CTWS released the Lower Deschutes River Macroinvertebrate and Periphyton Study, which was prepared by R2 Resource Consultants. Since then, the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality has asked for further analysis of the data behind the report.

PGE and R2 consulted with DEQ and other stakeholders in designing the study and provided extensive access for questions and input as the analysis and report were prepared. However, in a review of the results, agency staff identified questions and concerns regarding the data collected and conclusions drawn that the agency wants PGE to address before they will accept the study as final.

PGE and R2 had also identified areas for further analysis, so we’re working on a plan to address these questions and concerns. We’ll submit our plan to DEQ by June 30, and post additional updates as they’re available.

We’re welcoming spring Chinook back to the upper Deschutes basin…And keeping track of where they go!

June 21, 2016

So far this year, we’ve collected 30 adult spring Chinook salmon at the Pelton Adult Trap, below the Re-Regulating Dam. These fish started out as fry in the rivers and tributaries above Lake Billy Chinook, passed downstream through our Selective Water Withdrawal collection facility, and have now made their trip to the ocean and back.

We implanted these Chinook with an esophageal radio-tag and transported and released them above Round Butte Dam to continue their upstream migration. Now we’re tracking their movements to determine which river (Crooked, Deschutes or Metolius) and which tributary they ascend, and if possible where they spawn. We even jump into the water to put a visual on a radio-tagged fish from time to time. We expect Chinook salmon to continue arriving through July.

Tagged fish are considered wild fish. So if you catch one, please release it back into the water.

Green floy tag in the spring Chinook is used as a second identification tool
Green floy tag in the spring Chinook is used as a second identification tool
PGE biologist checking on tagged fish in Whychus Creek
PGE biologist checking on tagged fish in Whychus Creek
Implanting an esophageal radio tag in a steelhead
Implanting an esophageal radio tag in a steelhead