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Water Exchange with the City of Cascade Locks

June 20, 2016

Question

Why is the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) pursuing a water exchange with the City of Cascade Locks?

Answer

The water exchange will improve our ability to raise spring Chinook, coho, and sockeye salmon at Oxbow Hatchery, provides a second water source to the hatchery, will have no negative impact on the Herman Creek watershed, and is no cost to ODFW.

Background

ODFW operates the Oxbow Hatchery on Herman Creek at Cascade Locks (city) and holds a water right for 10 cubic feet per second (cfs) of water from Oxbow Springs for operation of the hatchery.

Oxbow Hatchery produces spring Chinook, coho and sockeye salmon annually for harvest and conservation programs. During low flow months (summer and early fall) the hatchery reduces its production and transfers fish to other locations to reduce fish loss.

In 2008, the city approached ODFW and asked if they could purchase spring water from Oxbow Hatchery to facilitate an economic development project in Cascade Locks. ODFW declined because the hatchery facility needs all the water that is available, especially during the summer and fall months.

In 2009, the city followed up by asking ODFW to consider a water exchange. In Oregon water law, a water exchange is basically a contractual agreement between two water right holders that allows them to exchange an equal volume of water for mutual benefit. The city and ODFW would each maintain their underlying water rights and the water exchange can be voided in the future.

If the exchange is approved, the city would provide ground water from their municipal water supply to replace spring water.  Moreover, the volume of ground water would be delivered to the hatchery at the time that it is most needed, during the low flow months.  As an example, if ODFW provides 0.5 cfs of spring water to the city for twelve months per year, the city would provide 1.0 cfs of groundwater to the hatchery for six months per year, during the months when the water is needed to raise fish. The result is a net increase in water to the hatchery and the Herman Creek watershed during the low flow months.

All development, operation, and maintenance costs associated with delivering spring water to the city and groundwater to the hatchery will be paid by the city.  There is no cost to ODFW.

As part of our due diligence, ODFW raised fish using the city’s groundwater for one year to evaluate its suitability. The fish raised in groundwater did well. Chemical evaluation of the groundwater indicates it is identical to the spring water. Due to concerns over possible negative impacts to the cold water refugia available to salmonids migrating up the Columbia River, a study was conducted by Cramer Fish Sciences. The study concluded that there would be no negative impact to the cold water refugia available in Herman Creek if the water exchange is approved.

 

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