Restoration of Stream Sites in Rogue River Basin Will Improve Salmon HabitatFebruary 10, 2014
February 10, 2015 — In response to a Biological Opinion issued by the National Marine Fisheries Service, degraded freshwater habitats in the Rogue Valley will soon be enhanced thanks to an ambitious set of projects backed by the US Bureau of Reclamation.
The project area encompasses Bear Creek, Emigrant Creek, Little Butte Creek, and South Fork Little Butte Creek. A large portion of the restoration projects will be implemented on private or municipal land, including planting native trees and shrubs on the banks of Lone Pine Creek.
The gentle Lone Pine Creek snakes through tall summer grasses as planes taxi down a nearby runway. With no trees leaning over the creek to cast shade, the water soon heats up from the daily sunlight. With the increased water temperatures, native and endangered cold-water fish struggle to survive.
This and other degraded freshwater habitats in the Rogue Valley will soon be enhanced thanks to an ambitious set of projects backed by the Bureau of Reclamation.
The Bureau of Reclamation manages water resources in southern Oregon by striving to balance the needs for cropland irrigation, flood control, recreation, and healthy waters and habitat for fish. To improve fish habitat, Reclamation is undertaking several large projects to keep enough water instream at critical times for Southern Oregon and Northern California coho salmon. In addition to stream flow, Reclamation has also committed to projects that will restore critical spawning and rearing habitats for coho in the Rogue River watershed by installing large woody material instream and planting shade-casting native vegetation on stream banks to create cooler-temperatures pools attractive to the fish.
These actions are a required response to a Biological Opinion issued by the National Marine Fisheries Service (NOAA Fisheries) calling for conservation actions to protect the winter and summer rearing habitat of endangered fish. The habitat is adversely affected by two dams operated by Reclamation in the Rogue River basin. The project area encompasses Bear Creek, Emigrant Creek, Little Butte Creek, and South Fork Little Butte Creek.
A large portion of the restoration projects will be implemented on private or municipal land, including land owned by Jackson County and leased to the region’s Rogue Valley International-Medford Airport. To facilitate this process, Reclamation is working with The Freshwater Trust, a nonprofit organization that has worked on many habitat restoration projects in Oregon, particularly streamside and aquatic habitat projects on the Rogue River and its tributaries. The Freshwater Trust combines its knowledge of the land and community with sophisticated modeling to identify project sites that yield the highest conservation returns for Reclamation’s dollars.
The Lone Pine Creek project combines the efforts of both The Freshwater Trust and the Medford Airport to “create a large, contiguously restored shaded area that will have greater ecological benefit for the stream,” noted Trevor Griffiths, Rogue Valley project manager for The Freshwater Trust.
For Reclamation, The Freshwater Trust and subcontractor Plant Oregon planted native trees and shrubs on the south bank of Lone Pine Creek (river mile 1), while the airport planted the same on the north bank. This work will be amplified by a separate restoration project just downstream that The Freshwater Trust is working on with a local NGO. The airport’s goal is to mitigate flooding that could affect business operations. Reclamation’s goal is to improve habitat for fish by providing shade to keep the stream cooler during the summer. This 2.5-acre project is one of several funded by Reclamation to restore 18 acres of riparian corridor in the Bear Creek area.
The Freshwater Trust is negotiating with landowners and securing agreements that allow for the implementation of habitat improvement projects on private lands within the Basin.
Reclamation selected The Trust, in part, to implement this work because of the organization’s strong relationships with the Rogue Valley community and its demonstrated success restoring sites under the City of Medford’s water quality trading program.
An agreement is in place to begin work on a second site, where riparian improvements—removing invasive blackberry bushes to allow natural cottonwoods to thrive—and placing large wood instream—to create pools where migrating fish can rest/spawn—will begin in early 2015.
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