Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board provides funding to identify restoration sites in the Rogue

July 10, 2015

July 10, 2015 — The Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board (OWEB) has awarded The Freshwater Trust $24,500 to identify sites in need of restoration along rivers in the Rogue basin.

Using a tool called REST — short for Riparian Extent and Status Tool — the nonprofit will survey the banks of southwestern Oregon waterways and identify sites lacking healthy streambank vegetation that have the potential to be restored by planting native trees and shrubs. Planting sites will be prioritized based on factors including existing levels of vegetation, the presence of fish, water temperature and land ownership.

“This project will allow us to fully understand where restoration is not only possible, but will have the greatest impact on this basin as a whole,” said Denis Reich, recruitment and southern Oregon program director with The Freshwater Trust. “Restoring whole river systems isn’t always possible nor efficient from a funding or ecological standpoint. That’s why it’s important to make conservation targeted so we can know that the actions we are taking will have the largest possible impact on the river and the species that call it home.”

Beginning near Crater Lake National Park and tracing 200 miles west to the Pacific, the Rogue has long been characterized by rugged whitewater and impressive salmon runs. Yet the thinning and removal of streamside vegetation has decreased shade and increased water temperatures in this iconic river and others in the basin, undermining efforts to recover federally listed coho in addition to other species such as Chinook, steelhead and lamprey.

Using remote sensed data known as LiDAR or Light Detection and Ranging and other data, The Freshwater Trust will map the height of trees, the shapes of river channels and the slopes of banks to obtain a full picture of where restoration is both needed and feasible.

“A wealth of research has warned us that areas with little to no vegetation along the Rogue pose a threat to the ecosystem as a whole,” said Eugene Wier, Rogue basin project manager. “The health of this river will depend on the development of a strategic and collaborative restoration plan. This assessment is one of many steps that supports such a plan. We are working to ensure restoration happens where it’s going to have the greatest impact.”

The Freshwater Trust will consult with a technical advisory committee of local fish, vegetation and water quality experts throughout the project. The committee will also review the final list of potential restoration sites generated from the analysis and aid in determining the cost of the projects.

OWEB is a state agency that provides grants to help Oregonians take care of local streams, rivers, wetlands and natural areas. OWEB Technical Assistance grants fund technical restoration design, implementation planning and landowner recruitment for restoration projects.

“This is one of a number of planning efforts in the Rogue that’s attempting to blueprint a fix for this great basin,” said Reich. “This analysis will hopefully serve as a source of knowledge for local restoration partners; becoming something we can all use to ensure the actions we’re all taking will ultimately mean healthier rivers to come.”

Founded in 1983, The Freshwater Trust accelerates the pace and scale of freshwater restoration through the use of science, technology and incentive-based solutions to restore rivers on a timeline that matters. The nonprofit uses quantified conservation to fix more rivers faster and in 2013, received the U.S. Water Prize for its innovation.

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