LP Brown Foundation allows TFT to further work in Eastern Oregon

October 1, 2018

PORTLAND, Oregon – October 1, 2018 – A $10,000 grant from the LP Brown Foundation will allow The Freshwater Trust (TFT) to further its work in the John Day basin of Eastern Oregon.

The award will go to fund the continuation of existing projects, planning and design of future restoration, and outreach to new partners. TFT has implemented projects that improve both quality and quantity in the basin for more than two decades.

The John Day is one of the largest watersheds in the state. Encompassing more than 8,000 miles, it contains four sub watersheds and 120 tributaries. The basin also houses more than 40-million-year-old fossils and diverse habitat for Rocky Mountain elk, big horn sheep, peregrine falcons, bald eagles, the Pacific tree frog and more.

“It’s the third longest free-flowing river in the United States,” said Meg Belais, flow restoration project manager with TFT. “The fact that it is free of dams and hatchery fish means it also has one of the strongest runs of wild salmon and steelhead in the Columbia basin. This is one of the reasons it has been and will continue to be a priority area for us.”

In the early 2000s, Rudio Creek, a 17-mile-long tributary in the northeastern part of the basin, lacked sufficient spawning and rearing habitat. Over decades, it was straightened and pushed against a valley wall to create pasture land.

“Traits that define a healthy habitat were long gone,” said Belais. “It was very straight in places, which made it a nearly impossible road for steelhead to travel through on their journey.”

In 2012, TFT restored a portion of Rudio Creek by adding meanders back in, restoring complexity and depth to the channel.

A portion of this recent grant will support an in-depth monitoring survey to understand the ongoing impacts of this work.

“If you know anything about us it’s that we care about outcomes,” said Spencer Sawaske, hydrologist with TFT. “It’s important for us to be there to see how the fish are responding and what the habitat looks like and then to collect data that allows us to track progress over time and inform the design of future projects.”

The Middle Fork John Day, another tributary in the basin, will also see water quality improvements, thanks to this funding. A portion will go toward planning future restoration projects with local partners and to building a fence necessary to keep livestock out of an existing project.

Flow deals, agreements with landowners to keep more water in stream during critical times of the year, have also been a big part of our work in this basin. Productive cattle, wheat and forage operations often put pressure on surrounding tributaries.

“It’s crucial to strike a balance between the water needed to keep family farms in this area prosperous and the streamflow needed to support large populations of native fish that require clean, cold water year round,” said Sawaske.

The water-use agreements inked by TFT have helped manifest this balance since 1995, and LP Brown funding will help TFT continue forming new, lasting relationships with landowners in the region.

In 2017, a total of 73,160 gallons per minute of leased water was reserved in Oregon’s streams for fish by TFT. This equals more than 32,000 football fields — including end zones — covered in one foot of water. Approximately 24% of that was with 15 landowners in the John Day basin.

“Funders like LP Brown are what makes impacts like this possible, and we’re grateful for their support” said Marley Gaddis, grants director with TFT. “This award will go a long way toward improving what’s arguably one of the most critical places for native fish in the state of Oregon.”