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Water Program

The Water Program is involved with many water issues that can directly or indirectly affect fish and wildlife. Its areas of interest are divided into three primary categories:

  1. Water Allocation and Water Quality
  2. Hydropower Program (regards hydro power licensing issues)
  3. Vector Control (Animal borne Diseases affecting fish, wildlife, or humans)

Water Program Updates:

  • November-December, 2020 – ODFW submitted 158 Instream Water Right applications in Southwest Oregon (Rogue, Umpqua, and South Coast Water Resources Department Administrative Basins).
  • June 20202020 Hydropower Status Report
  • November 2019 – A total of 80 new instream water rights that ODFW applied for in the North Coast and Mid-Coast Administrative Basins were certificated by the Oregon Water Resources Department.
  • September 2018 – Joint Review of the Fish Passage Restoration Subaccount

1. Water Allocation and Water Quality

Upper McKenzie River
Upper McKenzie River – Western Cascades
- Photo by George Robison, ODFW-

Instream Flow Issues

Approximately 1,500 instream water rights covering ~11,000 river miles have been established for fish and wildlife purposes since the Oregon Legislature passed the Instream Water Rights Act in 1987.

In 2016, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) re-established the instream water rights (ISWR) filing process throughout Oregon, consistent with Oregon’s Integrated Water Resources Strategy. Adopted in 2012 and updated in 2017, the Integrated Water Resources Strategy was developed “. . .to work toward the common purpose of maintaining healthy water resources to meet the needs of Oregonians and the environment for generations to come.” It established a framework for better understanding and meeting instream and out-of-stream water needs across the state while recognizing that water challenges will increase in the future as climate change influences water availability and use. The Strategy directed ODFW to determine instream flow needs and to establish additional ISWRs (Recommended Actions 3.A, 11.B), an important tool for improving watershed health and resilience in a changing climate.

Frequently Asked Questions

To keep apprised of the latest ISWR filings, please see the Oregon Department of Water Resources Water Rights Public Notice site or sign up for their Public Notice Subscription.

Commenting on Water use activities

In many Oregon statutes and rules, the Department of Fish and Wildlife is directed to provide comments to Water Resources Department regarding water use applications, permit extensions, or transfers of use (See OAR 690-033 especially subsections 120-140,230,330 for new water applications; OAR 690-315 for extensions; and OAR 690- 380 for transfers). Because ODFW is the agency with fish and wildlife expertise, the Water Resources Department is often bound by these comments and sometimes will alter conditions regarding water use based on these comments to protect fish and wildlife. Water Quality and Quantity program staff assist field biologists with guidance and advice for making these comments and in some cases takes the lead in making these comments.

Guidance, information, and forms provided to field staff:

Water Quality Issues

As the states experts on fish and wildlife Fish and Wildlife staff are often called upon to advise water quality programs because the beneficial use being impaired by a lack of water quality are often fish and wildlife species. Our interests include but are not limited to providing advice on vector control (i.e. techniques used to prevent spread of disease that can have positive and negative effects on wildlife – see links below), the Portland Harbor cleanup, and providing advice to the Department of Environmental Quality on water quality standards and TMDLs and the Department of Agriculture regarding the Agricultural Water Quality Management Program.

Hydropower Project Highlight for Leadership – Marine Region

June 18, 2021

PacWave South, an ocean energy test site proposed by Oregon State University, received it’s FERC license in March 2021. The site will consist of four ocean berths, which will occupy two square nautical miles of ocean plus a significant area for separate cables installed from the site to shore approximately seven miles long. The facility will be able to test up to 20 wave energy converters in four berths, allowing different technologies to be tested at the same time, with a maximum power output of up to 20MW. Read more.

2. Hydropower Program  

Slide Creek Powerhouse
Slide Creek Powerhouse and Tailrace Barrier– North Umpqua River
- Photo by David Harris, ODFW-

The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) is a member of the state Hydroelectric Application Review Team and works closely with hydropower project operators and developers, other agencies, and interest groups in federal and state licensing proceedings. ODFW’s Hydropower Program (Program) functions within the Water Quality and Quantity Program and consists of a manager, statewide program leader, five regional hydropower coordinators and several implementation staff. Developers who are considering a new project, or license holders that must reauthorize existing projects, are encouraged to contact Program staff to obtain information about fish and wildlife distribution and studies, fish passage requirements, and mitigation measures that may be applicable to their project.

State policy allows ODFW to participate to the fullest extent in any local, state, or federal proceeding related to hydroelectric power development in order to protect the natural resources of Oregon (ORS 543.015).

  • Program staff conduct project site visits and make recommendations to the Oregon Water Resources Department to ensure that any water right permit, license, or certificate contains fish and wildlife protection and mitigation measures that are consistent with the standards required by ORS 543.017, ORS 543A.025, and ORS 543.765.
  • ODFW participates in all aspects of federal proceedings and files comments, recommended terms and conditions, and prescriptions with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) pursuant to Section 10(j) of the Federal Power Act (FPA); Section 30(c) of the FPA, the Fish and Wildlife Coordination Act, and Section 10(a)(1) of the FPA for the  protection, mitigation, and enhancement of fish and wildlife and their habitat associated with any FERC license or exemption.

Currently Program staff are participating in major proceedings for Idaho Power’s Hells Canyon (Snake River) project, PacifiCorp’s Klamath (Klamath Basin) project, Eugene Water and Electric Board's Carmen-Smith (McKenzie River) project; and review and oversight of several proposed or licensed hydropower retrofits of federal dams and ocean wave energy projects. Additionally, Program staff participate in on-going implementation of settlement agreements and FERC licenses for projects such as Pelton–Round Butte (Deschutes Basin), Clackamas (Willamette Basin), and North Umpqua (Umpqua Basin).

3. Vector Control Review

Whaleshead Boulders
Whaleshead Boulders
- ODFW Photo -

The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife’s role in vector control is to review and approve the use of pesticides used by Vector Control Districts or Counties in order to protect fish, wildlife and their habitats. State statutes ORS 452.140 and ORS 452.245  direct Vector Control Districts and Counties to obtain ODFW approval before applying pesticides to control vectors. ODFW implements the statutes by annually reviewing and approving vector control plans with the goal to minimize effects on fish, wildlife and their habitats while not significantly interfering with disease prevention and containment. The approval process is based on a guidance document developed by ODFW (see Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Vector Control Guidance for Sensitive Areas).

The ODFW guidance contains recommendations to avoid direct impacts of pesticide applications on fish, wildlife or their habitats, as well as attempting to minimize indirect, chronic and long-term impacts.  The guidance focuses on:

  • Promoting natural mosquito predator diversity and healthy wetlands as an important part of an Integrated Pest Management plan.
  • Minimizing pesticide use absent a current health threat.
  • Using larval treatments that are more mosquito-specific before applying insecticides that may impact non-target species.
  • Minimizing use of adulticides.

ODFW’s approval only applies to defined and identified sensitive areas and species. ODFW has identified three categories of sensitive areas for the purposes of the guidance: 1) Wildlife Areas and Refuges, 2) Wetlands of Concern, and 3) Unique, Rare, or Vulnerable Habitats. These sensitive areas are identified on maps by County only for those counties with a vector control program (see Sensitive Area Maps).

Other Useful Links and Information Related to Vector Control:

For more information about the Vector Control Program, please contact Danette Faucera.

Watershed Restoration Priorities

Reports and Publications

Many water rights used instream flow information from Basin Investigation Reports (pdf) conducted in the 1960’s and 1970’s using the Oregon Method (Thompson, 1972 (pdf)).

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For more information about the Water Quality and Quantity Program, please contact Section Manager Chandra Ferrari


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