Category Archives: Water

Engineering answers for Spirit Lake

An aerial view to the south of Mount St. Helens in 1982 as another lahar—melted snow and volcanic rock (think wet cement)—occurred. When the lahar encountered the debris blockage from 1980, part of it flowed into Spirit Lake (bottom left), while the rest flowed west into the Loowit Creek drainage that flows into the upper North Fork Toutle River. USGS photo by Tom Casadevall.

In Science Findings #218, “The Spirit Lake Dilemma: Engineering a Solution for a Lake with a Problematic Outlet,” USDA Forest Service – Pacific Northwest Research Station writers explore new research into the future repair or replacement of an outflow tunnel at Spirit Lake, on Mount St. Helens.

The eruption of Mount St. Helens on May 18, 1980 fundamentally transformed the surrounding landscape, triggering geophysical processes that are still unfolding.

Spirit Lake, with Mount St. Helens, Washington, in the background (2015). A debris avalanche triggered by a volcanic eruption on May 18, 1980, blocked the lake’s natural outlet. A tunnel was built to safely remove water from the lake and minimize the risk of catastrophic flooding to communities downstream. Maintaining the tunnel is expensive, so long-term solutions are being explored. USDA Forest Service photo by Rhonda Mazza.

Among them was a debris avalanche caused by the eruption, that blocked the outlet from Spirit Lake to the North Fork Toutle River.

To prevent the rising lake level from breaching the blockage and potentially flooding communities downstream, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers built an outlet tunnel to maintain safe lake levels.

However, the tunnel must be periodically closed for repairs, during which time the lake level rises.

Prolonged closures, combined with increased volume from melting rainfall and snow in the spring, could allow the water level to rise high enough to breach the natural dam.

In 2015, the Gifford Pinchot National Forest commissioned a study to assess risks associated with alternative outlet options.

A team consisting of researchers from the U.S. Forest Service Pacific Northwest Research Station, the U.S. Geological Survey, and Oregon State University authored the study.

At the team’s request, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers conducted a dam safety risk-assessment of long-term solutions: maintaining the existing tunnel, rehabilitating the tunnel, creating an open channel across the blockage, or installing a buried conduit across the blockage.

The assessment determined that there is no risk-free way to remove water from Spirit Lake, but the likelihood is generally low that these solutions will fail.

With this information, the Forest Service is moving forward with developing a long-term solution to managing the Spirit Lake outlet.


Source information: Rhonda Mazza is a public affairs specialist for the USDA Forest Service – Pacific Northwest Research Station, which publishes Science Findings. Find past Science Findings at: https://www.fs.usda.gov/treesearch/.

Animation tells story of fish and fire

Fire and Fish: Habitat and History in the Northwest is a 5-minute animated video featuring two Forest Service research biologists that illustrates the complex relationship between fire and fish in Pacific Northwest rivers and streams. This screen capture from the video depicts juvenile fish finding shelter within a fallen log that has become submerged in a stream channel, providing refuge from both predators and strong currents.

An animated video recently released by the Pacific Fire Science Consortium explores and illustrates the complex relationship between fish and fire in the Pacific northwest United States.

The video, “Fish and Fire: History and Habitat in the Pacific Northwest,” was produced by the University of Oregon School of Journalism.

It features interviews two Forest Service research fish biologists, Rebecca Flitcroft and Gordon Reeves, both assigned to the USDA Forest Service – Pacific Northwest Research Station.

The scientists explain how some fish species in the Pacific Northwest have adapted to benefit from the impact of intermittent forest fires:

  • Fire adds silt and small rocks or gravel, which replenish materials needed to for some fish to create spawning beds.
  • Dead trees may fall into streams, creating complexity in the stream’s flow, which can reduce stress on fish by providing refuge from strong currents.
  • Log jams especially benefit juvenile species by creating broad flood plains, further diffusing rapid currents and offering many nooks and crannies in which to evade predators while nourishing the insect larvae, worms, beetles, and other organisms they may feed on.

The University of Oregon, the university’s Ecosystem Workforce Program, the Oregon State University and its Extension Service, The Nature Conservancy, Sustainable Northwest, the Center for Natural Lands Management, and the USDA Forest Service – Pacific Northwest Research Station are members of the Northwest Fire Science Consortium, one of fifteen regional science information exchanges funded by the Joint Fire Science Program.

From FireScience.gov:

In the Pacific Northwest, native salmon and trout (family Salmonidae) are some of the toughest survivors on the block. Over time, these fish have evolved behavioral adaptations to natural disturbances, and they rely on these disturbances to deliver coarse sediment and wood that become complex stream habitat. Powerful disturbances such as wildfire, post fire landslides, and debris flows may be detrimental to fish populations in the short term, but over time they enrich in-stream habitats, enhancing long-term fish survival and productivity.

LAND MANAGEMENT IMPLICATIONS

Forest management activities, such as enhancing river network connectivity through fish passage barrier removal and reducing predicted fire intensity and sizes, may increase the resilience of bull trout (Salvelinus confluentus) in the face of disturbances such as climate change and wildfire.

Natural disturbances, along with sound riparian management and road management practices that allow natural flood plain functioning, are important in maintaining healthy change in aquatic habitats. Connected, complex aquatic habitats benefit from ecosystem management practices that are analogous to the spatial extent of wildfires and bridge human-imposed divides such as land ownership boundaries.

Fire planning that includes aquatic issues such as habitat quality, stream network connectivity, and fish population resilience offers resource managers the opportunity to broaden fire management goals and activities to include potential positive effects on aquatic habitats.

WATCH the video here (or find it on YouTube):

More information:

Science Findings #198 (July, 2017): https://www.fs.usda.gov/pnw/publications/adaptation-wildfire-fish-story

“Wildfire may increase habitat quality for spring Chinook salmon in the Wenatchee River subbasin, WA, USA” (submitted 2015, published 2016): https://www.fs.fed.us/pnw/pubs/journals/pnw_2015_flitcroft001.pdf


Source information: The USDA Forest Service – Pacific Northwest Research Station is a leader in the scientific study of natural resources. We generate and communicate impartial knowledge to help people understand and make informed choices about natural resource management and sustainability. The station has 11 laboratories and research centers in Alaska, Oregon, and Washington, and manages 12 active experimental forests, ranges, and watersheds.

After a century’s absence, migratory steelhead return to Beaver Creek

three migratory steelhead are pictured swimming in turbulent waters

LA GRANDE, Ore. (July 29, 2019) Earlier this summer, Tim Bailey and Winston Morton of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife were looking for signs of spawning steelhead in the headwaters of Beaver Creek southwest of La Grande. 

They’d surveyed miles of the creek, tediously making their way over downed trees, rocks, and slippery stream banks while scanning the streambed. 

Then they found four redds, depressions in the river gravel made by fish to lay their eggs. 

This simple discovery represents a breakthrough for migratory steelhead, which had not been able to reach the headwaters of Beaver Creek for over 100 years.

A migratory steelhead leaps from the water in an effort to clear a rocky outcrop blocking it's passage upstream.
Human development that blocks migratory steelhead access to historical habitat, as well as poorly-designed passages that create strong currents can tire young fish expose them from predators, have resulted in several species being listed as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act. Courtesy photo by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Migratory steelhead are amazing fish. After they are born and raised in cold freshwater streams, they will swim hundreds of miles to feed and grow in the ocean. Then they swim back to the stream of their birth to reproduce. 

For many thousands of years, steelhead followed this life cycle in the Grande Ronde River and its tributaries, including the headwaters of Beaver Creek.

That changed a century ago with the construction of the Beaver Creek Dam and four water diversions in the La Grande municipal watershed.

Steelhead and other migratory fish could no longer swim past the dam and diversions to reach the high-quality spawning and rearing habitat in upper Beaver Creek. 

A man looks out at a concrete weird under construction along a streambed.
A concrete weir under construction as part of the Beaver Creek Fish Passage Project. Just two years after construction, fish biologists have found signs of migratory steelhead returning to the river for the first time in a century. Courtesy photo: Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife)

To solve this problem, several local, state, and federal entities teamed up to implement the Beaver Creek Fish Passage Project.

When the construction crew broke ground in June of 2017, the project had been in various stages of planning for 20 years.

Why did it take so long?

Designing a structure to provide fish passage up to, and down from, the Beaver Creek Dam was a significant engineering challenge. The structure had to be low-maintenance and work without electricity; it also had to accommodate high flows in the spring as well as low flows later in the summer.

A series of precast concrete weirs is laid into the Beaver Creek streambed.
A series of precast concrete weirs under construction as part of the Beaver Creek Fish Passage Project. Courtesy photo by Anderson Perry & Associates Inc.

The City of La Grande worked with a local civil engineering firm, Anderson Perry & Associates, to evaluate several alternatives for a fish passage structure, and other project partners provided technical feedback.

They ultimately landed on a one-of-a-kind solution: a series of 59 precast concrete weirs (little dams). Each weir weighs 27,000 pounds and had to be constructed off site.

Stacked one-by-one along about 400 feet of the dam’s eastern spillway, the weirs create a staircase of resting pools that allow fish to jump & swim up and over the top of the dam.

To date, there are no other fishways like this in the Pacific Northwest.

Construction workers install a series of precast concrete weirs in a temporarily-drained stream bed.
A series of precast concrete weirs under construction as part of the Beaver Creek Fish Passage Project. The 2017 installation of 59 weirs provides a series of resting pools for fish to swim up to, and down from, the Beaver Creek Dam. Courtesy photo by Anderson Perry & Associates Inc.

Implementing the Beaver Creek Fish Passage Project took a total of $1,125,700 and vital contributions from several partners:

  • The City of La Grande provided technical expertise, project funding, and grant administration.
  • Anderson Perry & Associates of La Grande provided engineering design and construction project management.
  • Lindley Contracting of Union constructed the project, including the fish passage structure, upgraded several intake structures, and replaced worn out utility infrastructure.
  • Grande Ronde Model Watershed facilitated project funding, including $150,000 from the Bonneville Power Administration, as well as technical feedback that contributed to the enhancement of the project.
  • The Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board contributed $150,000.
  • The Oregon Water Resources Department provided $600,000 in grant funding.
  • The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife provided expert advice, design review, and project monitoring.
  • The Wallowa-Whitman National Forest provided environmental analysis, planning, technical feedback, and implementation support.

“I’m grateful for the collaborative effort put forth by everyone involved,” Kyle Carpenter, La Grande’s director of public works, said.  “The wealth of knowledge and experience that we all pooled together, along with our cooperative move-it-forward mentality, were invaluable in the successful completion of this project.”

“The La Grande Municipal Watershed provides some of the best drinking water in the world, straight from our National Forest,” Lee Mannor, water superintendent for the city of La Grande, said.  “Now we also provide some of the best native fish habitat in the world.  That is something we can all be proud of when we turn on the tap.”

“The Beaver Creek Fish Passage Project was a special one for our team,” Brett Moore, P.E., with Anderson Perry & Associates, Inc., said  “The City of La Grande asked us to help them solve a unique engineering design problem, which is always rewarding.  This project also gave us a chance to be part of something much bigger right here in our own backyard.”

“This is a testament to nature’s resilience,” Jesse Steele, interim director of the Grande Ronde Model Watershed, said.  “I’m looking forward to more success stories as we continue to connect and restore habitat in the Grande Ronde Basin.”

“After more than 100 years away, migratory steelhead now have access to over 14 miles of pristine spawning and rearing habitat above the Beaver Creek Dam, and they are moving back in,” Tim Bailey, a fisheries biologist with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, said.  “Finding those first four redds was an important milestone, and I expect we will find even more in the future.”

“It really made my summer when I heard that steelhead were once again spawning in upper Beaver Creek,” Bill Gamble, district ranger for the La Grande District, Wallowa-Whitman National Forest, said.  “There is a lot of credit to go around. We in the Forest Service were just privileged to work with so many great partners over the years to help make the Beaver Creek Fish Passage Project a reality. This is another win for our local restoration economy – where habitat restoration projects are driving more investments and jobs while improving everyone’s access to natural resources.”

An Oregon Dept. of Fish and Wildlife employee, in the foreground, inspects a portion of Beaver Creek being restored for improved fish passage.
An Oregon Dept. of Fish and Wildlife employee, foreground, inspects a portion of Beaver Creek being restored for improved fish passage. Courtesy photo by Oregon Dept. of Fish and Wildlife

For more information, please see the article, “Reconnecting the Habitat Dots,” published in Ripples in the Grande Ronde and the La Grande Observer in the summer of 2017.


Source information: Wallowa Whitman National Forest (press release).

Forest Service invites comment re: Wild & Scenic River proposals for Mt. Hood NF

A woman takes notes while standing along the shore below small waterfall along a tributary in the Mt. Hood National Forest in Oregon. USDA Forest Service photo.

The Mt. Hood National Forest and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Northwest Oregon District invite the public to comment on a proposal to adopt a comprehensive river management plan for nine rivers as part of a Wild and Scenic River planning project.

Nine rivers were designated as additions to the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System in the 2009 Omnibus Public Land Management Act for a total of 81 miles of additional wild and scenic river.

The designated rivers are: Collawash River, Eagle Creek, East Fork Hood River, Fifteenmile Creek, Fish Creek, Middle Fork Hood River, South Fork Clackamas River, South Fork Roaring River, and Zigzag River.

The South Fork Clackamas River includes both Forest Service and BLM-administered lands.

The Forest and BLM began the planning process for these rivers in June 2017.

The scoping packet is available for review on the project website: https://www.fs.usda.gov/project/?project=54674. Information can also be found on the Wild and Scenic Rivers Comprehensive River Management Plan website and BLM project website.

The purpose of this outreach effort is to invite public involvement process at an early stage of proposal development. Any comments at this stage of project development are welcome. In particular, members of the public who believe they have information the agencies may not be aware of or who have concerns regarding this proposed action are encouraged to send that information in writing to the address provided below.

The agencies anticipate that the level of review necessary for this proposal will be covered through an Environmental Assessment (EA).

Public involvement is a key element of the land management planning process. The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and Wild and Scenic Rivers Act provides the framework for public participation in the federal decision making process. Public input at this point in the process will help identify issues associated with this planning process and guide development of possible alternatives to the proposed action. Comments will again be solicited from the public and other federal, state and local agencies when a preliminary assessment and draft comprehensive river management plan are available.

The deadline to submit comments is August 26, 2019.

Electronic comments including attachments may be submitted electronically via the website link below. Specific written comments may also be submitted via mail or hand delivered to the Zigzag Ranger Station between the hours of 7:45 a.m. to noon and 1 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, excluding federal holidays.

Comments must have an identifiable name attached, or verification of identity will be required. A scanned signature may serve as verification on electronic comments.

To submit comments electronically, visit: https://cara.ecosystem-management.org/Public//CommentInput?Project=54674. The link is located on the left side of the project website.

To submit via mail or hand delivery, send to: Wild and Scenic River Planning Comments; 70220 E. Highway 26; Zigzag, OR 97049 or BLM Northwest Oregon District, Wild and Scenic River Planning Comments (Attn: Whitney Wirthlin); 1717 Fabry Road SE; Salem, OR 97306.

For more information, contact Jennie O’Connor Card, team leader, at (406) 522-2537 or jennie.oconnorcard@usda.gov.


Source information: Mt. Hood National Forest (press release).

Forest Service fights noxious weeds in Central Oregon

Close-up of yellow-flowering branches of the Scotch Broom shrub, an invasive weed found throughout Washington and Oregon.

The U.S. Forest Service will treat more than 750 acres for invasive plants across Central Oregon this year that, if left untreated, could choke out native vegetation, livestock forage and wildlife habitat.

Natural resource managers for the Deschutes and Ochoco National Forests and the Crooked River National Grassland have posted detailed plans and maps of the treatment areas to the websites for both the Deschutes and Ochoco National Forests.

These plans have been released to ensure the public is aware of and has access to detailed information about the work to take place, including the reasons herbicide applications may be necessary, products which have been approved for use, and what efforts are being made to limit exposure to the minimum amount necessary to eradicate noxious weeds and protect surrounding watersheds and habitat.

Invasive species targeted for treatment include yellow flag iris, reed canary grass, diffuse, Russian and spotted knapweed, ribbongrass, ventenata, Medusahead rye, whitetop and Scotch thistle.

Often overlooked or unrecognized, these invasive weeds are a major threat to both public and private lands in Oregon. They reproduce quickly while displacing or altering native plant communities and they cause long-lasting ecological and economic problems.

Invasive plants increase fire hazards, degrade fish and wildlife habitat, displace native plants, impair water quality, and even degrade scenic beauty and recreational opportunities. They also reduce forage opportunities for livestock and wildlife.

A 2014 study by the Oregon Department of Agriculture found that invasive weeds cost Oregon’s economy $83.5 million annually.

Planned treatments will take place along roads, at rock quarry sites, within recent wildfires and other highly-disturbed areas.

For 2019 invasive weed treatment plans and a map of planned treatment sites on the Ochoco National Forest and Deschutes National Forest, see this document.

Implementation will be carried out by the Forest Service and a number of government and non-profit partners throughout Central Oregon. Work will follow the design features in the Deschutes and Ochoco National Forests and Crooked River National Grassland Record of Decision for the 2012 Invasive Plant treatment project.

Forest Service land managers employ an Early Detection / Rapid Response (EDRR) strategy for mapping and treating invasive infestations. EDRR increases the chances of successfully restoring invasive plant sites by treating new infestations before they become large, thereby reducing the time and cost associated with treatment and the potential ecological damage.

More Information: 2019_Invasive_Plant_Treatments.pdf

Download a brochure of the “Top Invasive Plants of the Crooked River Basin” on the Ochoco National Forest website, at: www.fs.usda.gov/ochoco.

To learn more about the threat of invasive weeds and how you can help prevent them, visit www.playcleango.org


Source information: Deschutes National Forest (press release)

Forest Service employees on team recognized by EPA award for Drinking Water Partnership

A view of the Blue River Reservoir, located between Finn River and McKenzie Bridge on the Willamette National Forest, Oregon. USDA Forest Service photo (undated file photo)

PORTLAND, Ore. (July 20, 2019) — The Environmental Protection Agency recognized the USDA Forest Service’s Pacific Northwest regional fisheries biologist and regional Aquatic and Riparian Effectiveness Monitoring Plan program lead for their contributions as part of a multi-agency federal team that established a now four-year-old partnership to encourage and fund watershed improvement efforts.

James Capurso, Pacific Northwest regional fisheries biologist for the USDA Forest Service, and Christine Hirsch, Pacific Northwest Aquatic and Riparian Effectiveness Monitoring Plan (AREMP) Program Lead, were among six federal employees honored at the 2018 EPA National Honors awards July 10 for Outstanding Leadership in Collaborative Problem Solving, in recognition of their contributions as the Forest Service representatives to the Drinking Water Providers Partnership, of which the EPA and Bureau of Land Management are also members.

Christine Hirsch, USDA Forest Service - Pacific Northwest Region
Christine Hirsch, USDA Forest Service – Pacific Northwest Region

“I think this is the first time we’ve had a funding partnership which also includes state funding in the mix. This particular partnership also includes non-profits that have been instrumental in reaching out to the municipal water providers,” Hirsch said. “Traditionally, the Forest Service hasn’t partnered very frequently with water providers so this is bringing new partners into the fold to accomplish key restoration work.”

The Drinking Water Providers Partnership is a regional interagency program that protects and restores drinking water quality and native fish habitat within municipal watersheds, benefiting the towns depending upon them for clean, pure water.  A component of the partnership pools agency financial resources to fund restoration projects and outreach efforts within municipal watersheds.

Members of the Drinking Water Providers Partnership regional interagency team.

Mike Brown and Scott Lightcap, from the Bureau of Land Management, and Teresa Kubo and Michelle Tucker, from EPA Region 10, were also recognized as members of the federal team.

The Partnership provides a mechanism for federal, state, local, and several non-government partners to collaboratively evaluate projects and distribute pooled funds towards projects benefiting municipal watersheds, including those  reducing erosion and sedimentation, improving aquatic organism passage, increasing the complexity of habitats in streams and floodplains, addressing contamination or other issues related to legacy mining projects, performing vegetation management, and conducting public outreach and education efforts.

Local partners create the projects and pool resources for action – but if they need additional resources to complete the work, they submit applications for regional funding.

Jim Capurso, USDA Forest Service - Pacific Northwest Region
Jim Capurso, USDA Forest Service – Pacific Northwest Region

“When we were establishing this partnership, we literally went door to door visiting city and town water providers in the Cascade Mountains and Coast Range,” Capurso said. “Everywhere we went, from the ‘one traffic light towns to the larger cities, water providers were supportive, even excited, about the partnership.”

During its first four years, the Drinking Water Providers partnership has awarded more than $2.3 million in federal, state, and private funding towards watershed restoration, protection and improvement projects in Oregon and Washington.

“It sounds straightforward; like everyone puts their money in, then we pick the projects and write checks. But there are so many rules and limitations on what we use the money for among the various agencies and partners… that’s where a lot of the creative problem-solving comes in.  We rank the projects and determine whose funding can legally be used to support it,” Hirsch said.

Projects on seven national forests, including the Willamette, Umpqua, Wallowa-Whitman, Olympic, Okanogan-Wenatchee, Siuslaw, Gifford Pinchot, and Umatilla National Forests, to protect or improve drinking water supplies in more than a dozen communities (including Walla Walla, Cashmere, Leavenworth, Port Townsend Wash. and Glide, Eugene, Langlois, Cave Junction, Myrtle Point, Lincoln City, and Yachats, Ore.) received funds from partnership in 2019.

In addition to traditional projects, such as infrastructure repair, vegetation planting, and returning large wood to restore water current complexity to streams, some of the 2019 awards funded conservation education efforts:

The Umatilla National Forest and City of Walla Walla received funds for a documentary film on the Mill Creek Municipal Watershed as a drinking water source and how it serves as important wildlife habitat which will be used for education and outreach in the surrounding community.

Cascadia Conservation District partnered with Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest on a project to education farmers, tree-fruit growers and viticulturalists in the Wenatchee watershed about best practices for protecting water quality and potentially achieving the Salmon-Safe certification for their products.

And the Olympic National Forest and City of Port Townsend will use some of the funds awarded for protecting the Big and Little Quilcene Rivers through improved sanitation facilities for managing human waste at recreation areas, and signage and even field ranger outreach to inform the public about proper human waste disposal and the dangers presented by fecal contamination of the city’s drinking water supply.

Other funds are allocated for research towards future water quality improvement and watershed protection opportunities.

The partnership awarded a 2019 grant to Trout Unlimited towards developing a GIS model that uses existing data to identify high-impact opportunities for beaver location on the Upper Columbia River. The McKenzie River Trust received funds to research into potential land protection opportunities to protect the drinking water source watershed for the City of Yachats.

More information:

Gallery: The Drinking Water Providers Partnership is a collaboration of the USDA Forest Service Region 6, Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, the Washington Department of Health, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Region 10, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management OR/WA Office, the Geos Institute, and WildEarth Guardians. The floodplain enhancement work on the lower South Fork of the McKenzie River, located on the Willamette National Forest in Oregon, pictured here, was funded in part through funds allocated by the partnership; approximately one third of the funds awarded were from non-Forest Service partners.


Source information: USDA Forest Service – Pacific Northwest Region (staff report)

Fivemile-Bell Watershed project selected for Riparian Challenge award

A bird perches on a stump in the Fivemile-Bell watershed, Siuslaw National Forest. Courtesy photo by Morgan Heim / Morgan Heim Photography (used with permission)

REEDSPORT, Ore. (July 19, 2019) The Fivemile-Bell Watershed Restoration project has been selected for the 2019 Western Division of the American Fisheries Society (WDAFS) Riparian Challenge Award in the USDA Forest Service category.

The project is located on the Siuslaw National Forest, approximately 10 miles south of Florence, Ore., on the Central Coast Ranger District.

WDAFS presents this award to managers and resource specialists to recognize their efforts in maintaining, restoring, and improving riparian and watershed ecosystems.

The Fivemile-Bell restoration project is a decade-long innovative project that covers about 5,000 acres of national forest land working to restore a critical floodplain to dramatically improve habitat for Oregon Coast Coho salmon, which is listed as threatened under the federal Endangered Species Act, and other aquatic and terrestrial animals.

An amphibian found in the Fivemile-Bell watershed, Siuslaw National Forest. Courtesy photo by Morgan Heim / Morgan Heim Photography (used with permission)
An amphibian found in the Fivemile-Bell watershed, Siuslaw National Forest. Courtesy photo by Morgan Heim / Morgan Heim Photography (used with permission)

The project, a joint effort by the Siuslaw National Forest and numerous partner organizations and agencies, uses new research to guide the re-establishment of historic stream and floodplain interactions, and restore a native riparian plant community on land formerly used for farming.

This cooperative effort is improving and creating habitat in one of the most productive stream systems in Oregon.

Additionally, the restoration accelerates the development of late-successional and old-growth characteristics in surrounding forest and uplands, benefiting a variety of species – such as the northern spotted owl and marbled murrelet, which are also federally listed under the ESA, creating a more sustainable and resilient landscape.

“This is a representation of all the hard work that has occurred over the last decade” Paul Burns, the Forest Service project lead, said. “We share this recognition with the many partners that have worked on this project.”

Additional partners on the project include Siuslaw Watershed Council, Siuslaw Institute, Elkton Community Education Center, Confederated Tribes of the Coos, Lower Umpqua, and Siuslaw Indians, Confederated Tribes of the Siletz Indians, Ecotrust, Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and Western Rivers Conservancy.

“The Fivemile Bell project showcases the incredible social and ecological outcomes that result when diverse project partners work together” Eli Tome, executive director of the Siuslaw Watershed Council, said. “Partners have invested over $1 million in this innovative restoration project over the past decade. Research indicates this investment has supported over 15 local jobs which is critical in our rural community. Restoring this area is supporting one of the strongest runs of threatened Coho salmon on the Oregon Coast. This project is an investment in our community, economy and environment today, and for future generations.”

To learn more about the Fivemile-Bell Watershed Restoration Project visit: https://go.usa.gov/xmAV8. For personal narratives from local project partners at Fivemile Bell and other restoration projects throughout the area, visit the Siuslaw Watershed Council’s website at https://www.siuslaw.org/why-we-restore/.


Source information: The Siuslaw National Forest manages more than 630,000 acres of temperate rainforests along the Oregon Coast Range, from Tillamook to the end of the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area in Coos Bay. Additional information is available online at www.fs.usda.gov/siuslaw, www.twitter.com/SiuslawNF and www.facebook.com/SiuslawNF.

The Siuslaw Watershed Council supports sound economic, social and environmental uses of natural and human resources in the Siuslaw River Basin. The Council encourages cooperation among public and private watershed entities to promote awareness and understanding of watershed functions by adopting and implementing a total watershed approach to natural resource management and production.

Fivemile-Bell watershed, Siuslaw National Forest. Courtesy photo by Morgan Heim / Morgan Heim Photography (used with permission)
Fivemile-Bell watershed, Siuslaw National Forest. Courtesy photo by Morgan Heim / Morgan Heim Photography (used with permission)

In the news: Study suggests seasonal drainage reduces invasives, boosts salmon migration in Ore. reservoir

Fall Creek wetland, with forests and a rocky mountain peak in the background. Deschutes National Forest; September 9, 1992. USDA Forest Service file photo.

A recent study analyzing more than a decade’s worth of fish migration data suggests the recently-adopted practice of seasonally draining an Oregon reservoir has boosted downstream migration of an endangered salmon species, while flushing two predatory invasive species.

A team of researchers from Oregon State University, USDA Forest Service – Pacific Northwest Research Station, and the Army Corps of Engineers found that juvenile spring chinook salmon raised in Fall Creek Reservoir, located about 30 miles southeast of Eugene, Ore. in the Willamette River basin, registered stronger downstream migrations in the years after the Army Corps of Engineers began draining the reservoir for a brief time, every autumn.

The practice also flushed populations of two invasive species, the largemouth bass and crappie, out of the reservoir – potentially improving survival of future salmon in the system.

Full story, via the Statesman Journal:
https://www.statesmanjournal.com/story/news/2019/05/21/fish-salmon-benefit-from-oregon-lake-draining-eliminates-invasive-species/3756561002/

Puddles gets jump on invasive mussels in WA waterways

WDFW Sergeant Pam Taylor and Puddles, a rescued 2-year-old Jack Russell terrier mix who will use her keen sense of smell to help detect quagga and zebra mussel larvae on boats traveling through mandatory watercraft-inspection stations run by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW). WDFW courtesy photo.

OLYMPIA, Wash. (May 16, 2019) – The newest member of the team that protects Washington’s waterways from invasive species has quite the ruff routine: Sniff, sit, play!

Starting this spring, Puddles, a 2-year-old Jack Russell terrier mix, will use her keen sense of smell to help detect quagga and zebra mussel larvae on boats traveling through mandatory watercraft-inspection stations run by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW).

Starting this spring, Puddles, a 2-year-old Jack Russell terrier mix, will use her keen sense of smell to help detect quagga and zebra mussel larvae on boats traveling through mandatory watercraft-inspection stations run by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW). Courtesy photo provided by WDFW.
Starting this spring, Puddles, a 2-year-old Jack Russell terrier mix, will use her keen sense of smell to help detect quagga and zebra mussel larvae on boats traveling through mandatory watercraft-inspection stations run by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW). Courtesy photo provided by WDFW.

“Invasive mussels can impact our state’s water quality, power and irrigation systems, wildlife and recreation,” Justin Bush, executive coordinator of the Washington Invasive Species Council, said. “We all need to work together to prevent invasive mussels from changing our way of life and harming resources we value. In many ways, invasive mussels would change what it means to be a Washingtonian.”

Quagga and zebra mussels can clog piping and mechanical systems of industrial plants, utilities, locks and dams. Researchers estimate that invasive species cost industries, businesses and communities more than $5 billion nationwide over 6 years, and the power industry more than $3 billion.

“We believe Puddles will be a great addition to the Washington invasive species program,” Heidi McMaster, regional invasive species coordinator for the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, said. The bureau paid for Puddles’ training as part of the Bureau’s fight to keep the Columbia River basin and Washington State free of invasive mussels. “Reclamation is proud to be part of this effort to prevent the introduction of quagga mussels to the Columbia River basin.”

Puddles was initially surrendered to a shelter in Fresno, California where she caught the attention of the Green Dog Project’s “Rescued for a Reason” program. Staff at the Green Dog Project contacted Mussel Dogs, a training program for dogs, and Puddles was trained there.

WDFW Sergeant Pam Taylor spent 2 weeks in California and at Glen Canyon National Recreation Area in Arizona and Utah training with Puddles for her new assignment.

Puddles is just one of the ways Washington State is working with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and other partners – including the USDA Forest Service – to control and stop the spread of invasive species.

National Forest lands in the Pacific Northwest protect a number of watersheds that provide clean water for drinking and irrigation, as well as hydroelectric power generation and wildlife habitat – all uses that are threatened by invasive species, including quagga and zebra mussels.

WDFW Sergeant Pam Taylor and Puddles, a rescued 2-year-old Jack Russell terrier mix who will use her keen sense of smell to help detect quagga and zebra mussel larvae on boats traveling through mandatory watercraft-inspection stations run by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW). WDFW courtesy photo.
WDFW Sergeant Pam Taylor and Puddles, a rescued 2-year-old Jack Russell terrier mix who will use her keen sense of smell to help detect quagga and zebra mussel larvae on boats traveling through mandatory watercraft-inspection stations run by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. WDFW courtesy photo.

How you can help: Clean, Drain, Dry!

The Washington Invasive Species Council asks the public to Clean–Drain–Dry their boats, personal watercraft, and other gear each time they remove their craft or equipment from a body of water.

Some invesive species can hitch a ride on clothes, shoes and boots, boats, canoes, kayaks, paddleboards, and even fishing poles, pails, and shovels!

Clean: When leaving the water, clean all equipment that touched the water by removing all visible plants, algae, animals and mud. This includes watercraft hulls, trailers, shoes, waders, life vests, engines and other gear.

Drain: Drain any accumulated water from watercraft or gear, including live and transom wells, before leaving the access point to the water. If transporting watercraft, clean and dry everything before transport.

Dry: Once home, let all gear fully dry before using your boat or watercraft it in a different water body. Just draining and letting your watercraft and gear dry may not sufficiently remove some invasive species.

Transporting boats across state lines: Clean, Drain, Dry may not protect local waterways against all potential invasives. If you are bringing a watercraft into Washington for the first time, contact the Washington State aquatic invasive species hotline (1-888-WDFW-AIS) before placing it in the water. Be prepared to provide the state and water body where your watercraft was used, and whether you decontaminated your watercraft before you left that state. In some cases, WDFW will require an intensive decontamination upon entry into Washington, provided at no cost to the owner. Remember that it’s illegal to transport or spread aquatic invasive species and violators can face heavy fines, and even jail time!


Source information: The Washington Invasives Species Council and Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife (joint press release).

Mill Pond reopening means more summer rec opportunities on Colville NF

A new channel is being formed in the floodplain of what was previously Mill Pond

COLVILLE, Wash. (March 4, 2019) – Summer promises exciting new recreation opportunities on the Colville National Forest, as the Mill Pond Historic Site and Campground reopens after a two-year closure.

This site has been closed since July of 201,7 when construction began to remove Mill Pond Dam and restore surrounding habitat.

The campground is scheduled to reopen before Memorial Day, with 10 upgraded campsites, including new food storage lockers, and major improvements to roads, parking, signage, and bathroom facilities to better support visitors’ outdoor experiences.

The Mill Pond Historic day use site and a new trail system are expected to re-open by June 27, 2019.

The project is being performed by Seattle City Light on the Colville National Forest, as required by the Settlement Agreement for the Boundary Hydroelectric Facility License issued by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in 2013.

The log crib dam that formed Mill Pond was constructed in 1909 by the Inland Portland Cement Company, and was replaced by a concrete dam in 1921, but had not been used for electricity generation in many years. Seattle City Light agreed to perform the removal work as part of an agreement to re-license a different dam.

Two new loop trail systems will be available around the old pond site, including two footbridges spanning the old dam site and the upstream channel. The new trails connect to about three miles of existing trail in the area.

The Mill Pond Historic Site day use area will also be renovated with a large new picnic pavilion, which includes a community fireplace, new picnic tables, and accessible parking.

New interpretative signs and kiosks that tell the history of the site will be installed by late fall of 2019.

Visitors to the area will find the landscape of the old pond site has been transformed during the closure. Most of the sediment in the pond was flushed downstream with strong Sullivan Creek flows in the spring of 2018, exposing the pre-dam ground surface of the Sullivan Creek floodplain.

Throughout the summer and fall of 2018, a natural riverine ecosystem was shaped with multi-thread stream channels and extensive logjams to provide high quality fish habitat and spawning areas.

During the fall, thousands of locally sourced shrubs, trees, and grasses were planted in five different planting zones around the old pond site.

As warmer weather sets in this spring, the site will begin greening up and the final steps of the site restoration will be complete.

For more information on the Mill Pond Dam Removal and Habitat Restoration project, visit www.millponddam.com.


Source information: USDA Forest Service – Colville National Forest (press release)

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