Most experience the Crooked River from one of a few perspectives — when its cold current is pressing against their legs as they cast, or when they’re looking down upon it stretching through Smith Rock State Park.
Whatʼs visible for far fewer however is how the river supports a $140-million agriculture sector — and has been since the early 19th century. Wear appears on anything thatʼs been in demand for that long. For the Crooked, the wear shows in the form of low flows, high water temperatures, algal blooms, and more. These conditions have challenged the native trout and steelhead populations in both the Crooked and the acclaimed Deschutes and the water supply for farmers throughout Central Oregon.
“The analysis illustrates that adjustments are going to need to be made if it is going to continue to support fish and farmers in this region,” said David Primozich, Vice President of Water.
Modernizing irrigation would make a massive impact on water quality and quantity not only in the Crooked but for the greater Deschutes basin. TFT has been working with partners to use analytics to inform how to make the biggest difference for instream flow, water quality, and ultimately, agricultural resilience.
“This is a primary tactic to support fish populations and freshwater ecosystems in the face of severe drought,” said Nick Osman, Conservation Programs Manager.
“Better information leads to better action, and we want to deliver that in the form of a tool for stakeholders making decisions here.”
TFT will aggregate new data into its BasinScout® tool from other models to create a full view of water movement in the subbasin and assess infrastructure improvement actions for efficiency and cost. Then, we will build a dashboard that enables users to assess a portfolio of options for improvements.
“Our goal is to make different combinations of improvement projects visible to those making decisions,” said Primozich. “Users will be able to see the costs and benefits of a range of alternatives and build consensus on project priorities to achieve the best outcome for the river and people.”
TFT has significant experience building these types of decision-support tools, including on behalf of stakeholders in Idahoʼs Snake River basin and Californiaʼs Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.
“Being able to see different scenarios clearly has yielded transformational results for river basins,” said Osman.
“Weʼre thrilled at the prospect of bringing our analytical capabilities back to the same basin where TFT founders thought up this organization. Itʼs a real full-circle project.”