First phase of Whychus Creek restoration complete

Fall dam removal will open 13 miles of fish habitat

By Dylan J. Darling / The Bulletin / @DylanJDarling

The first phase of a makeover for 1½ miles of Whychus Creek south of Sisters is complete.

“It was basically a reroute,” said Kassidy Kern, spokeswoman for the Deschutes National Forest.

Between early May and Friday, the U.S. Forest Service and Upper Deschutes Watershed Council removed berms, reconnected the creek with historic flood channels, installed logjams and created pools. This fall, they plan to return and remove a decades-old diversion dam and replace a nearby footbridge, further reviving the creek.

Removing the Pine Meadow Ranch Dam will open up 13 miles of Whychus Creek to redband trout and, eventually, reintroduced steelhead and chinook salmon, said Ryan Houston, executive director of the Bend-based Upper Deschutes Watershed Council.

“Whychus Creek is only 40 miles long, so 13 miles is a pretty good reach,” he said.

Whychus Creek feeds into the Deschutes River upstream of Lake Billy Chinook, near Crooked River Ranch.

Steelhead and salmon, both oceangoing fish, are making a return to the Deschutes River system because of a submerged fish tower in the lake, completed by Portland General Electric and the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs in 2009. The tower allows fish to migrate out to the ocean from spawning grounds on Whychus.

The creek restoration project is off Three Creeks Road and along Mainline Road. During May, the forest didn’t formally close the roads near the trail but warned visitors to take caution.

Now that the work is done, the warning has been lifted, Kern said Friday.

Along with improving fish habitat along the creek, the first phase of the restoration project should prevent potential flooding on Three Creeks Road.

The second phase, the removal of the dam and the replacement of the Mainline Road trail bridge, is set to start in September and be done by summer 2015.

— Reporter: 541-617-7812, ddarling@bendbulletin.com