The Rogue

The Rogue is a coveted destination for both rowdy river trips and quieter pursuits of fall steelhead. It’s home to hundreds of family farms, ranches, wineries and orchards. Time, the growth of agriculture, and increasing populations led to the simplification of landscapes and lack of streamside vegetation and habitat. Yet the mighty Rogue continues to give and retains its allure. The Freshwater Trust’s (TFT) actions to improve water quality by planting streamsides, building large wood structures, removing fish barriers, and fencing livestock aid in securing its long-term resilience.

Eight years have passed since TFT implemented its first restoration project in the basin. A contract with the City of Medford to offset the impacts of its wastewater treatment facility was the catalyst. Today, a woven network of funders and partners and quantified, robust results allow us to point to our work here as the paradigm for what we envision elsewhere.

There are more than 30 individual restoration sites in the Rogue, five new in 2019, driven by an array of funders, ranging from municipalities to the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board, Oregon Department of Transportation and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. These sites are along the Applegate River, the mainstem of the Rogue, and eight of the most critical creeks for fish in the basin.

In late 2019, TFT put shovel to dirt in its first restoration project with the City of Ashland, its second water quality trading program in the basin. In 2018, the city contracted with TFT to restore more than 20 acres of streamside vegetation and to keep the water cool for native fish. The program is anticipated to run through 2043.

“Our first water quality trading contract with Medford proved how sound and natural a solution streamside vegetation can be for offsetting impacts that every city has from simply serving its residents,” said Eugene Wier, restoration project manager. “We quantify the impact of those projects, and that proves to us we are making a difference.”

To date, more than 500 million kilocalories per day of solar load has been blocked in the basin through revegetation. Last year, our project managers celebrated the joining of three contiguous restoration projects, which meant nearly two miles of healthy vegetation was planted along the mainstem of the river.

“It’s essentially what we always hoped for,” said Katelyn Detweiler, restoration project manager. “Landowners seeing what we’re doing with their neighbors, gaining interest, and then before you know it, more than a mile of river is benefiting from shade. It’s not only an environmental win, it’s a social one. Reputation turns to results.”

In addition to revegetation, working with partners like the Bureau of Reclamation, TFT built 25 new large wood structures in 2019. And nearly 3,000 feet of livestock fencing was placed along Little Butte Creek to improve water quality and habitat.

We also began work in earnest with the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) to develop a set of tools that will determine where USFS dollars can be used most effectively upstream to help improve water quality and lower the temperatures in the Wild & Scenic sections of the Rogue. A web-based application, still in development with TFT, will include a map with explorable layers, filterable model results, and dynamic data visualizations, which display “uplift,” or the environmental benefit a given project could have, aligned to the cost of implementing a project. When complete in 2021, a full suite of publicly available geospatial tools will be available to support priority project execution and maximize the benefits of future restoration efforts throughout the Rogue.

In addition to environmental outcomes, our Rogue work has contributed more than $14 million in investment into the community and provided ongoing contracts to more than 12 small businesses.

“When TFT showed up, that was when investment in restoration really started happening in earnest here,” said Todd Marthoski, owner of M&M Construction Services, an excavation contractor in the Rogue. “It was a huge push forward in terms of funding for projects and getting them on the ground. I’m grateful for that.”


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