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Delayed by COVID and fire, Deschutes Land Trust resumes Whychus Creek restoration

(Update: Adding video, comment from project officials)

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- After being delayed by the pandemic, then last month's Grandview Fire, restoration work on a 1.5-mile stretch of Whychus Creek is now underway.

This is the second phase of a restoration project by The Deschutes Land Trust to improve habitat in and around the creek for fish and wildlife.

Rika Ayotte, executive director of the Deschutes Land Trust, told NewsChannel 21 during a tour of the project on Monday, "The creek is pushed up against the canyon there, that was moved to allow for grazing and for cattle and for ranching on the property. The goal of the restoration is to restore the flood plains."

The current phase is scheduled to be completed this month. Phase 3 is set to begin in 2023.

Crews are currently working on removing berms holding the stream in a straight alignment. The land trust says this will promote natural movement of the stream through the floodplain.

Mathias Perle, restoration program manager for the Upper Deschutes Watershed Council, said what that program entails is digging up the old channel, which was created through years of shifting the flow of the creek, filling it in, then lowering the surrounding floodplain, so it can fill it once again.

"What we are inheriting is 100 years of the creek having been manipulated and straightened and levied and bermed off to one side," Perle said.

Ayotte said the current flow of the creek has greatly impacted the populations of steelhead and chinook salmon that lived there.

"(We're) trying to bring those populations back to Whychus Creek," she said. "They were gone because flows had changed so drastically."

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Jack Hirsh

Jack Hirsh is a multimedia journalist for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Jack here.

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