Eastern Oregon, Water Storage Appraisal Study Background
Existing reservoirs in eastern Oregon provide supplemental irrigation water to thousands of acres annually, yet late summer water demand and instream flow targets exceed available water. In 2005, the communities in the Powder basin, which includes the Powder River, Burnt River, and Pine Creek drainages, formed a coalition called the Water and Stream Health committee (WASH) to investigate the potential to improve water supplies in the basin. Powder basin residents and other stakeholders see an opportunity to capture the snowmelt that leaves the basin in vast quantities every year, and to control that water for later release for the benefit of fish, wildlife, recreation, agriculture, municipalities, and hydroelectric producers.
In January 2005, the Baker County Board of Commissioners established the Powder Basin Water and Stream Health Steering Committee (WASH) and charged them with exploring and determining the best use of water for the area, including improving stream health, examining potential water storage options, and investigating possibilities for mitigating spring flooding while improving late season instream flows. The organization requested assistance from Reclamation’s Snake River Area Office in Boise, Idaho, and secured additional Federal funding in 2007 to pursue further assessment of water supply opportunities in the Powder basin.
The Eastern Oregon Water Storage Appraisal Study area is located in eastern Oregon, bordered to the north by the Wallowa Mountains, to the west by the Blue Mountains, to the south by the Malheur River basin, and to the east by the Snake River. The Burnt River and Powder River water systems are upstream from ten Snake River and Columbia River dams. The study area is comprised of three major basins: Burnt River, Powder River, and Pine Creek, which together encompass approximately 2.7 million acres. Stream headwaters originate in the Blue and Wallowa mountain ranges at elevations from 6,000 to 9,000 feet above sea level. They empty into Snake River reservoirs operated by the Idaho Power Company.
In 2007, Reclamation completed a literature review for the Burnt River, Powder River, and Pine Creek basins. Existing and previously proposed storage sites were researched, as wells as the study area subbasins’ stream systems and stream health. The literature review launched a comprehensive preliminary assessment of existing information in support of an appraisal study. Reclamation’s appraisal study process is a preliminary survey of problems and needs that uses existing information to explore conceptual solutions to identified water resources issues.
Toni E. Turner M.S., P.E.
Bureau of Reclamation
Snake River Area Office
230 Collins Road
Boise, ID 83702-4520