Ashland, Oregon, selects The Freshwater Trust for new restoration partnershipSeptember 24, 2018
ASHLAND, OREGON – September 24, 2018 – The Freshwater Trust (TFT) signed an agreement with the City of Ashland, Oregon, to restore at least 24 acres of streamside vegetation in efforts to keep the water cool for native fish in southern Oregon’s Rogue River basin.
This contract is the second TFT-led water quality trading program in the Rogue. In 2012, TFT partnered with the City of Medford to implement a nationally recognized trading program.
To ensure warm water discharged by Medford’s wastewater treatment plant won’t harm native fish when water levels are low and air temperature is high, TFT planted dozens of acres of native vegetation on the Rogue River and its tributaries. The shade created by these restoration projects keeps the water from heating up in the sun and keeps the city in compliance with the Clean Water Act (CWA). Ashland’s program will be similar.
Under the CWA, any point source, such as a wastewater treatment plant, that discharges to a waterway must operate within the bounds of a permit intended to protect the quality of the receiving water. In the case of temperature, limits are meant to ensure discharges do not harm salmon and steelhead.
Ashland anticipated the need to implement multiple projects that create shade benefits for compliance with its CWA permit. In advance of receiving an updated permit, the City decided to start building out its trading program and hopes to implement sites proactively so as to maximize benefits for its community and the watershed.
“TFT will use the knowledge and expertise gained through the years of working with Medford and other municipalities in the region to build something similarly successful and robust for the City of Ashland,” said Alex Johnson, Freshwater Fund director with TFT. “All of these initiatives we’re working on, whether with utilities, government agencies or local businesses, are beginning to build upon one another. They all drive toward the same thing: a healthier Rogue.”
The Ashland trading program will be approximately a quarter the size of Medford’s and located in the Bear Creek watershed. In addition to the trading program, the City anticipates implementing several other measures to reduce its impact, including installing wetlands.
Municipalities typically evaluate options like cooling towers and holding ponds to cool the treated water before sending it back into a river and remain in compliance with the CWA. Recognizing how much money was being spent evaluating technology options that only treated the symptom but did not restore watersheds, TFT was one of the first to propose planting trees as an alternative way to meet permit limits.
“Cities have limited options to reduce the temperature of treated wastewater,” said Johnson. “By restoring trees next to streams where they once existed, we’re able to offer a reliable solution that addresses the biggest source of heat in Northwestern rivers, which is direct exposure to the sun.”
To date, the Medford program has prevented 457 million kilocalories per day of solar load – an amount equivalent to shading 100 Olympic swimming pools. Once the program is complete, TFT will have planted enough trees to prevent 600 million kilocalories per day of solar load from entering the Rogue River basin.
The streamside plantings also have greater environmental benefits than other solutions proposed.
“These trees will filter nutrients, provide more habitat for fish and wildlife, and sequester carbon – all of which are outcomes you wouldn’t get with other options,” said Johnson. “This choice demonstrates Ashland’s true commitment to managing their natural resources in a holistic fashion.”
Ashland is the third municipality in Oregon to participate in a water quality trading program. Others include the City of Medford and Clean Water Services, serving urban Washington County.
“The City of Ashland is excited to start this project, one of four interconnected pieces toward meeting temperature reduction requirements for Ashland’s Wastewater Treatment Plant,” said Paula Brown, public works director for the City of Ashland. “This riparian planting project will help develop shading and other aquatic improvements in the Bear Creek watershed.”
Before plants are placed in the ground, TFT will use publicly available data to identify the parcels of land on both city-owned and private property that have the greatest restoration potential. This design phase will take three to six months. With information in hand, staff in Ashland will then recruit partner landowners. Ashland and TFT then hope to start implementing projects so that Bear Creek, the fish, and residents will get to experience these benefits as soon as possible.
“I’m thrilled that the city my family and I call home has chosen the restoration path less traveled,” said Eugene Wier, Ashland resident and project manager with TFT. “It’s one I’ve already witnessed make a huge difference for the Rogue over the past six years. Their leadership will likely inspire others to do the same.”
TFT also currently has contracts with the Oregon Department of Transportation, the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board, the Bureau of Reclamation, the Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, and U.S. Forest Service for restoration work throughout the basin.
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