Honey Creek/Rookery Diversion Project
This project is located on private property located on Honey Creek in the Warner Basin near Plush, Oregon, 35 miles northeast of Lakeview. The project proposed to replace a non-functional irrigation weir with a structure that would allow the diversion of irrigation water while providing fish passage and screening for Warner Basin Redband trout and Warner sucker. The Warner sucker was listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act in 1985 and Warner Basin Redband trout are listed as a Sensitive-Critical species in the Oregon Conservation Strategy.
Honey Creek is the only spawning stream for native Redband trout and Warner sucker rearing in Hart Lake. Access to and from headwater spawning areas in Honey Creek to rearing areas in Hart Lake is critical for the persistence of these species. Before this first fish screen was compelted, upstream passage for returning adult spawners only occured during years of higher than average snowpack when stream flows exceeded irrigation needs. In addition, there has never been screening to prevent entrainment of downstream migrant tout and suckers into irrigation canals. Access for the lakes provides several major benefits to Warner suckers.
Allowing passage and screening at Rookery opened up 1 mile of excellent quality habitat to these native fish. This has been an important step as it has opened the first access to Hart Lake. There are 18 miles of habitat that are passable upstream of the seven lower diversions we are trying to access. The Lake County Umbrella Watershed Council also assisted the uppermost landowners to create passage and screened three diversions.
There are currently seven irrigation diversions located in a three mile section of lower Honey Creek. All are barriers to upstream migration for Redband trout and the Warner sucker when stoplogs are in place to divert stream flow into irrigation canals. The irrigation diversion structures have been in place for 50 plus years and are nearing the end of their operational lifespan.
Fish biologists wanted to see the irrigation diversions replaced to provide fish passage and screening because it would significantly reduce the conservation risk to these sensitive and listed fish species.
To initiate upgrading these facilities landowners, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Bureau of Land Management developed a two phased plan facilitated by the Lakeview Soil and Water Conservation District. In phase one, staff measured maximum flow diversions at six lower irrigation canals in order to estimate the size of screens needed at each structure when they are replaced.
Phase two focuses on designing and installing fish passage and screening at specific structures as funding becomes available. Rookery Diversion is the average size of four other diversions on the system. There are two which are larger. The lowest diversion has been completed and work upstream will begin in the fall of 2015.