Feds threatened with second suit over Deschutes River management practices

Feds threatened with second suit over Deschutes River management practices
By Kelly House
The Oregonian/OregonLive

August 13, 2015

A second environmental group has announced plans to sue the federal government over dam management practices that, it claims, are harming wildlife in the Deschutes River.

WaterWatch of Oregon has issued notice to the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and three Bend-area irrigation districts of its plans to sue unless the agencies begin leaving more water in the river for frogs and other wildlife.

The nonprofit’s lawyers argue current management practices cause wild fluctuations in the river’s flow. As a result, wildlife including the federally-protected Oregon spotted frog are suffering.

The legal notice follows a related action last month from the Center for Biological Diversity. In its complaint, the center claimed the Bureau of Reclamation’s management practices at the Crane Prairie and Wickiup dams is harming the federally-protected Oregon spotted frog.

WaterWatch’s notice includes two key differences: It seeks changes to protect the entire stretch of river from the Wickiup Reservoir downstream to Bend, and it seeks protections for more species than just the spotted frog.

WaterWatch spokesman Jim McCarthy said his group’s legal notice is intended to work alongside the center’s complaint. WaterWatch wants the federal dam management agency and the local irrigation districts to go through a scientific process to change their management and “come up with flows that don’t kill frogs.”

“Those flows will also benefit a whole host of species, and will let the river behave more like a river, and less like an irrigation ditch,” McCarthy said.

The Bureau of Reclamation and the Central Oregon, North Unit and Tumalo irrigation districts have 60 days to respond.