McKay Reservoir Project
Putting Reservoir Water to Work in Streams
During the driest months of the summer, McKay Reservoir is a blue oasis in the otherwise brown landscape surrounding Pendleton, Oregon. The reservoir was completed in 1926 to provide supplemental irrigation to vast acreages distributed among several large irrigation districts in the area. However, not all the reservoir water is allocated for irrigation and in 2006 The Freshwater Trust found a unique opportunity to put that non-irrigation reservoir water to work for fisheries enhancement. Working with the Bureau of Reclamation, the Oregon Water Resources Department, the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, and two private landowners, The Freshwater Trust completed two transactions that provide reservoir water from behind the dam into McKay Creek and then into the Umatilla River. The first transaction, a permanent project, will result in up to 300 acre-feet of stored water being released during the irrigation season, while the second transaction, a 5-year lease, will add another 150 acre-feet of water. Utilizing water storage, this agreement represented a new tool for The Freshwater Trust in 2006.
Together, this water is an important addition to both McKay Creek and the Umatilla River that will help recovering anadromous and native fish species. In addition to the ecological benefits, the cooperative agreements represent a unique new streamflow restoration tool that The Freshwater Trust expects will be useful for future transactions in this location and others.