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Owner Kenny Read tells Reclamation study group that the ranch has a conservation plan for eagles.

SUSAN MATHENY/MADRAS PIONEER - The Read ranch proprety sits just north of Haystack Reservoir.U.S. Bureau of Reclamation personnel and members of an Upper Deschutes Basin Work Group met Sept. 14 with Kenny and Dianne Read to get their input on the possibility of expanding Haystack Reservoir, which is near the border of their cattle ranch.

The meeting included Michael Relf, Reclamation project manager for the Pacific Northwest Region, Gregg Garnett, Reclamation's Bend field office manager, North Unit Irrigation District Manager Mike Britton and Rex Barber Jr., who both serve on Upper Deschutes Basin committees, local research biologist Gary Clowers, and the Reads.

Relf explained that Reclamation was assisting with a study on water supply and demand, any imbalances in the supply, and strategies to address them. He said the study started before the Oregon spotted frog issue, and it is taking a broad look at how water needs might change in the future with climate change, population growth and other factors.

The $1.5 million study, which is looking at water needs for farms, rivers and cities, is expected to be completed in 2018. The Bureau of Reclamation and the Oregon Water Resources Department each paid $750,000 to fund the study.

Relf said Reclamation doesn't make recommendations. "Our goal is to complete the study, and it's up to the stakeholders to use the information," he said.

"We may identify approaches such as conservation, how reservoirs are operated, transfers of water, enhanced or additional new (water) storage," he said to address instream flow issues.

Currently, NUID's water comes from Wickiup Reservoir, 65 miles south of Jefferson County. One idea is that instead of just using Wickiup Reservoir, irrigation water could be stored at a lower reservoir, so water would be available in the spring, he said.

"The study is looking at locations, and off-channel locations," he said.

Garnett added, "We've identified three or four concepts. It's not a design, plan or funding – just concepts."

Relf said concepts included expanding Haystack Reservoir by 20,000 to 70,000 acre feet.

"Expanding 40 acre feet puts water on my land," Kenny Read pointed out.

Other concepts include building a reservoir up the valley from Haystack Reservoir in the Grassland area, or building a new "Monner" reservoir east of Madras (about one mile north of the prison).

"We are looking objectively at any of these concepts. If there are issues we don't know about now, we need to know them," Relf said.

Dianne Read noted their ranch was by a major fault line which runs from a riparian area at Haystack Reservoir to U.S. Highway 97, and there were conservation and stewardship issues.

Kenny Read informed the group, "We have a conservation plan for the bald eagle and all our lands are protected from any government takings." He said their conservation plan was validated through the U.S. Department of Agriculture in November 2001.

He explained that they went through the USDA process to voluntarily bring the bald eagle back on their land, and from 1995 to 2005, made several trips to Washington, D.C., to work on endangered species issues. Read said their efforts, combined with those of other cattlemen across the U.S., helped the bald eagle become delisted as a threatened species in 2007.

"Our reward for what we did before it was delisted was that (our land) could be protected from then forward," he said, adding, "When the eagle was delisted, the Department of Fish and Wildlife accepted our conservation plan.

Read said he and Dianne were following a management plan his dad and brother, Herschel and Pete Read, started in the 1980s. "They and Gary (Clowers) started the whole thing to protect the bald and golden eagle, and we finished it. We have designated areas on our property for wildlife habitat," Read said.

Relf noted, "That's fair to document. We acknowledge that there are environmental concerns here, and that this is a historic ranch (a Century Ranch, established in 1898)." Garnett added the fact that there was a fault line.

Relf asked Read if there was an elevation Haystack Reservoir could be raised that would work? Read said it could be raised to their fence line on the north side of the road.

"So the reservoir could go up about 10 feet," Barber estimated.

"You can raise the reservoir, but once it gets to a certain elevation, we've got issues," Read said.

Relf acknowledged Read's concerns and noted there were also issues with the other sites. "A storage plan is not a simple process," he said.

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