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Refuge Water Management Update

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Written by Ed Moulton, MNWR Maintenance Supervisor/Photo by Dan Streiffert

At Malheur Refuge every spring and summer, water is diverted from the Donner und Blitzen River to irrigate meadows, ponds, and other crucial habitats for wildlife. Irrigation season generally lasts until August. This year, due to lack of flows in the river, maintenance staff have had to slow down or stop water in most areas of the Refuge.

On July 5th the flow above Page Springs dam was roughly 90 cubic feet per second (cfs), so MNWR maintenance staff slowed the water way down (by over half) in the West Canal to meet minimum flows in East Canal and below Sodhouse Dam. 

By July 6th the river was down to 60 cfs, so we shut the West Canal down. Flow to Buena Vista Ponds and the Double O Unit have been restricted as well.

I am hopeful we can maintain the 25 cfs minimum flow below Sodhouse Dam until the carp are out of the river and moving back down to the lake.

I feel we were very lucky to have been able to hold water on the Refuge for as long as we did, with the snow pack on Steens Mountain being as low as it was. Maybe next year we can hold it for the duration of our irrigation season.

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