SUNRIVER — After the Deschutes River spread onto his property last summer, Tim Curtin made plans to have a dozen dump-truck loads of dirt dropped onto his yard next spring to raise it and keep water off.
But Curtin, like many south Deschutes County residents, thinks there’s also work to be done in the river to prevent further seasonal flooding.
“There has to be a solution,” said Curtin, 67, who has lived along the river for 13 years in the River Meadows neighborhood.
His home is on a 6½-mile stretch of river — between the South Century Drive Bridge and the mouth of the Little Deschutes River — that has been prone to flooding in recent years.
The Upper Deschutes River is a regulated river, fed by releases from Wickiup Reservoir, said Jeremy Giffin, Deschutes Basin watermaster for Oregon Water Resources. In sending water down the river, the state is meeting the demands of farmers and ranchers downstream of Bend who hold water rights.
Last summer, the river extended onto riverfront properties south of Sunriver as the state ramped up flows to meet irrigation demands. Wednesday night, about 50 people showed up at a meeting where county, state and federal officials talked about the river.
Summertime releases aren’t particularly higher than what they’ve been for decades.
However, a buildup of silt and aquatic weeds could be causing the water level in the river to rise in recent years, Giffin said.
“I think there is a bigger, underlying issue here, and that is that the river is changing up there,” he said.
Dredging or weed thinning could be done to lower the level of the river, Giffin said.
Before doing such work, property owners would have to apply for permits with the Department of State Lands, the Department of Environmental Quality and the U.S. Army Corps, said Kyle Gorman, region manager for the Oregon Water Resources Department. The stretch of river is under a federal Wild and Scenic designation, which could restrict in-water work.
“It would be some big hurdles to do something like that,” Gorman said.
The situation is similar to the buildup of silt in Mirror Pond in Bend, said Carl Jansen, board president for the Upper Deschutes River Coalition. The coalition represents neighborhoods along the river south of Bend.
While the Mirror Pond Steering Committee, which includes officials with the city and park district, is leading research into the possible dredging of the pond, such a group hasn’t been established for the Upper Deschutes River.
For now the coalition will at least keep the conversation going. The Upper Deschutes River Coalition plans to take up the summertime flooding issue at a meeting later this year, said Jeff Wieland, co-chair of the coalition’s watershed committee. He said finding a solution could be a long process.
Source: The Bulletin ©2012