Medford, Oregon - Three federally-funded river restoration projects that will utilize salvaged timber to create prime anadromous fish habitat for Coho salmon and other species were launched this week in the Rogue River Basin.
The projects, designed to establish and protect juvenile fish rearing habitat in local streams, are being funded by the Bureau of Reclamation and implemented by The Freshwater Trust. The Freshwater Trust, a conservation-nonprofit based in Portland, Oregon will oversee construction at the three sites until they are completed in early September: Neil Creek/Dunn Ranch south of Ashland and two more on Little Butte Creek upstream of Lake Creek.
To provide cover and keep water cool, each project design calls for large trees with root wads and other wood structures to be strategically placed instream. Over 90 trees, salvaged from a 2015 storm, were repurposed for these projects.
"That timber is from a blow down at Howard Prairie reservoir," says Bend Field Office Manager Doug Deflitch, "With the help of the BLM and Jackson County, we saved about $100,000 that we'd have to pay to harvest elsewhere – it's a great deal for the taxpayer and the fish will love it too," he said.
This summer's workload includes removing invasive plant species, contouring stream channels, installing wood structures for habitat cover, and planting native riparian vegetation. On Neil Creek, cottonwood, alder and willow were planted last fall to allow them to take root.
"We're looking forward to finishing work on the Dunn Ranch site," says Denis Reich, Freshwater Trust Southern Oregon Programs Director, "When you combine these new wood root wads and a healthy dose of new vegetation, it means double the habitat benefits for this project: more channel complexity and cooler water temperature." he said.
Over $1.5 million has been allocated by the Bureau of Reclamation for these three projects. The work is part of a series of fish passage, instream habitat, and riparian zone improvements that benefit ESA-listed Coho salmon under the 2012 Rogue River Biological Opinion. To date Reclamation has spent over $6.6 million to meet this obligation.
In 2015, six other projects were completed under the direction of The Freshwater Trust and two local irrigation districts. These include:
- Oak Street fish ladder removal and replacement to meet modern fish passage criteria
- Lone Pine Creek riparian vegetation planting (2.6 acres)
- Two instream large wood habitat structure projects on South Fork Little Butte Creek
- Ashland Diversion Dam removal
- $1 million grant to Talent Irrigation District for canal piping to allow Ashland Diversion Dam removal
Reclamation is expected to fully implement the terms and conditions of the Rogue River Biological Opinion by the end of 2020.