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Deschutes Groundwater Mitigation Program
Background information
The Deschutes Groundwater Mitigation Program was developed to provide for new ground water uses while maintaining scenic waterway and instream water right flows in the Deschutes Basin. The program is authorized under ORS 537.746 and House Bill 3623 (Chapter 694, 2011 Oregon Law) and implemented in Oregon Administrative Rules (OAR) Chapter 690, Divisions 505, 521 and 522.

The goals of the Deschutes Groundwater Mitigation Program are to:
  • Maintain flows for Scenic Waterways and senior water rights, including instream water rights;
  • Facilitate restoration of flows in the middle reach of the Deschutes River and related tributaries; and
  • Sustain existing water uses and accommodate growth through new ground water development.
Five Year Evaluations
Every five years the Water Resources Commission (WRC) is required under OAR Chapter 69, Divisions 505 and 521 to evaluate the effectiveness of the Mitigation Program.  The purpose of this evaluation is to ensure that scenic waterway and instream water right flows continue to be met on at least an equivalent or more frequent basis compared to flows within a representative base period.  
First five year evaluation of the Deschutes Groundwater Mitigation Program:

  Second five year evaluation of the Deschutes Groundwater Mitigation Program: 


House Bill 3623 Evaluation of the Deschutes Mitigation Program

The Department is in the process of completing a legislatively required evaluation of the Deschutes Groundwater Mitigation Program.  This evaluation is required under HB 3623  (Chapter 694, 2011 Oregon Law), which reauthorized the Mitigation Program and extended the sunset date to January 2, 2029.  HB 3623 requires that the report include a summary of:

  • Program impacts on other water users of the Deschutes River Basin;
  • Potential timing of mitigation;
  • Identification of zones of impact;
  • Review of impacts on the headwaters of the Metolius River and other key reaches of the Metolius River system;
  • Potential timing of federal, state and local storage improvements; and
  • Other issues identified by stakeholders.

Consistent with HB 3623, the report will also include a review of Mitigation Program, specifically looking at:

  • Identification of regulatory and statutory changes that may improve the program in order to address and mitigate injury to existing water rights and spring systems and to offset measurable reductions of scenic waterway flows.

On January 23, 2015, the Department solicited feedback from stakeholders on the Deschutes Groundwater Mitigation program.  Written feedback was provided by various stakeholders.

On August 17, 2015, the Department shared a draft of the House Bill 3494 report with stakeholders and the Department’s Groundwater Advisory Committee and requested comments on the draft report.  

An updated draft was provided to the Department's Commission for review at the November 19, 2015, Oregon Water Resources Commission meeting.  The Department also shared this updated draft with stakeholders and provided an additional opportunity to convey additional feedback to the Department.

On December 23, 2016, the Department provided a review of the Deschutes Groundwater Mitigation Program to the Legislative Assembly, as required by ORS 540.155 (House Bill 3623).   

House Bill 3494 Evaluation of the Deschutes Mitigation Program

On January 1, 2009, the Department provided an evaluation of the Mitigation Program to the 75th Legislative Assembly, as required by HB 3494 (Chapter 669, Oregon Laws 2005).  HB 3494 provided the original authorization for the Deschutes Groundwater Mitigation Program and established a sunset date for the program of January 2, 2014.  Under HB 3494, the Department was required to report to the Legislature on the implementation and operation of the Deschutes Ground Water Mitigation and Mitigation Bank programs. The report was required to include:

  • The cumulative rate of water appropriated under all ground water permits approved in the Deschutes River Basin after the effective date HB 3494.
  • The volume of water, in acre-feet, provided for mitigation; and
  • The measured stream flow of the Deschutes and it major tributaries.

The report also included information on the progress on restoring stream flows to support anadromous fish and identification of any statutory changes necessary to accomplish the needed stream flow restoration. HB 3494 directed the Department to consult with Deschutes River Basin water users and organizations in evaluation of the Mitigation Program and development of this report.    To assist in the development of the HB 3494 report, the Department formed the Deschutes Work Group, which was composed of a variety of stakeholders and local water users representing various interests.  The Group identified where the program was being successfully implemented and where members of the group believed the program could be modified or improved.