Natasha Bellis

Natasha Bellis

Natasha Bellis, United States

Natasha Bellis joined the Deschutes River Conservancy in 2016. She provides strategic oversight of the organization’s stream flow restoration programs including negotiating stream flow restoration agreements and convening and facilitating stakeholder processes in priority reaches. Natasha holds a MS in Environmental Studies from the University of Montana with a focus on collaborative conservation and a JD from Lewis and Clark Law School with a certificate in Environmental and Natural Resource Law. Natasha moved to Bend in 2015 from Portland, OR where she worked as the Flow Restoration Director for The Freshwater Trust. Prior to joining the Deschutes River Conservancy, she developed conservation land acquisitions for the Deschutes Land Trust.

Presentation Title: The Evolution of Environmental Flows on Whychus Creek

The story of streamflow restoration on Whychus Creek is one of evolution. When the Deschutes River Conservancy (DRC) formed in 1996 it was common for Whychus Creek to run dry during the summer months due to irrigation diversions. Because of the severity of the problem and the resource-intensive nature of a long term solution, DRC developed a strategy to provide maximum near-term relief through instream leasing while building the necessary financial and project partnerships to achieve a permanent solution through irrigation efficiency projects and long-term management agreements. Twenty years later, the DRC has identifed how to restore 30 cfs of relaible water to Whychus Creek through a suite of transaction tools including instream leasing, conservation projects, points of diversion switches and instream transfers. While the Creek no longer runs dry in the summer months, DRC is still shy of meeting our 33 cfs flow target. Given the limitations of the legal framework guiding water rights regulation on Whychus Creek, the DRC is exploring alternative approaches to meeting our flow target on Whychus Creek during all years, including management agreements, drought year leasing, and surface-groundwater agreeements. DRC’s strategy of restoring flows in a manner that maintains agricultural production and helps meet municipal water supply needs, means that any alternative approach will demand strong collaboration and solid partnerships. DRC hopes our collaorative approach and succesful flow restoration on Whychus Creek can serve as a model for other watersheds in the basin as they begin to draft a habitat conservation plan to meet obligations imposed by a recent Endangered Species Act lawsuit settlement.

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