by Lisa Batey, Watershed Council Board Member

Watershed News: Council Completes Bio-Assessment

In June, in the midst of the pandemic, the North Clackamas Watersheds Council marked its eleventh anniversary.  Working and meeting from home has slowed a few things down, but the Council is moving forward on many fronts, including toward development of our Watershed Action Plan, which will guide restoration work needed to enhance the health of our watersheds over the coming years.

We’re excited to announce that the first step of the Watershed Action Plan – a Rapid Bio-Assessment of priority reaches in the four watersheds – is complete.  The report, prepared by Inter-Fluve, Inc. in consultation with our Restoration Committee, identified fish passage barriers and other challenges in specific segments, or reaches, of Kellogg, Mt. Scott, Boardman, Rinearson and River Forest Creeks. You can find the Bio-Assessment here.

 

“The Bio-Assessment identifies 40 individual potential projects across our watersheds, focused on goals like lowering the creeks’ water temperature, adding places for fish to rest, eat and hide, and reconnecting streams with the floodplain. This sets the stage for the Council to start the second phase of the process, strategically prioritizing which projects to implement first.” says Restoration Committee Chair Tonia Williamson, who works for North Clackamas Parks and Recreation District. 

Williamson noted that there were some surprising discoveries in the process:

  • Some of the highest priority projects for improving fish habitat are where the creeks meet the Willamette, which will provide rearing and resting habitat for both local salmon and steelhead and fish migrating to and from other Willamette tributaries like the Clackamas, McKenzie, and Santiam rivers.
  • There is great potential to enhance habitat in 3 Creeks Natural Area
  • Our streams lack complexity, which is a frequent challenge with urban streams.  They need more large wood that accumulates spawning gravel, deeper pools for fish to shelter, and connections to wetlands and floodplains, which also reduce flooding risk for people and property downstream.
  • There are both structural barriers to fish passage—like culverts under roads—and informal barriers—like rock weirs that streamside residents may build in the creek to create a pool for kids to wade in. These can block the migration of small juvenile salmon and trout. If you build pols in streams, please knock them down at the end of summer to resotre fish passage.

The Rapid Bio-Assessment gave the Council insightful information about the data available about our watersheds, most notable about what information is missing. ODFW and Clackamas Water Environment Services (WES) have studies these watersheds, but there are important gaps.  Information about the fish passage barriers is not thorough, so it’s hard to make firm recommendations of exactly how to fix the problems.  Similarly, water temperature data has been collected, but not with continuous data loggers and in very few locations. The Councils is seeking funding to collect this important missing information.

What’s Next?

  • The final phase of the watershed action plan will create an overall restoration plan that can guide our work in the next ten years, and advance more high-priority projects to the design phase.
  • A comprehensive Watershed Action Plan will be developed in the coming year to 18 months.

We’re thankful to the PGE Salmon Habitat Support Fund, Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board, North Clackamas Parks & Recreation District, Clackamas Water Environment Services, and the Clackamas Partnership for their support of the Bio-Assessment and Watershed Action Plan.