Our Klamath Basin Water Crisis
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Reversing past changes to the watershed
Herald and News September 13, 2009
Projects to restore the Klamath River watershed are numerous and include public agencies, private nonprofits and landowners. Here are just a few of the projects begun, completed or proposed.
Chiloquin Dam removed
In October 2008, the Chiloquin Dam, identified as a barrier between the lake and sucker spawning grounds in the Williamson and Sprague rivers, was removed. Used solely to provide power to irrigators, the damís removal was expected to increase sucker spawning habitat by as much as 80 miles.
Built in 1914, the dam came down quite easily, a Bureau of Reclamation engineer told the Herald and News. The riverbanks were restored to what is thought to be the original course of the river using photos from 1914.
Williamson River Delta restored
In October 2007, four levees were breached in the Williamson River Delta Preserve, where the Williamson River meets Upper Klamath Lake. Owned by The Nature Conservancy, the 7,500-acre preserveís main purpose is to provide habitat for the sucker. In October 2007, more levees were breached to reconnect the lake with Goose Bay.
Landowners changed the delta in the 1950s by building levees to create farmland. The Nature Conservancy bought what was then Tulana Farms in 1996 and neighboring Goose Bay in 1999. No more plans to alter the landscape are in the works, and officials say nature will take over from here.
Sprague River banks stabilized
The Fremont-Winema National Forests is proposing restoration work to the north fork of the Sprague River and Cold Creek in Lake County.
The project would affect the 15 miles of the Sprague River that has been designated as a Wild and Scenic River. The proposal states 4,690 feet of actively eroding streambank are the result of historic grazing practices, road construction, fire regime and timber harvest. Three culverts would be replaced under the proposal because they are undersized and blocked, preventing water flow and fish passage.
The project proposes to restore riparian habitat, reconnect floodplains, create aquatic habitat complexity and increase water storage within high elevation meadow reaches. The Silver Lake and Paisley ranger districts are currently accepting comments on the proposed restoration.
Watershed projects funded
During the past five years, the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board has funded 59 projects in the Klamath Basin, at a cost of more than $4 million. Of those, 48 were restoration projects, six were education and outreach projects, three were project design and two studied the effectiveness of restoration projects.
Many of the restoration projects were paid for with small grants designed to help landowners, ranchers and farmers convert irrigation ditches to pipes or fence riparian areas to keep livestock out of streams, said Carolyn Devine, communications coordinator for Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board. Larger projects, done by the Klamath Basin Rangeland Trust, Klamath Watershed Partnership and The Nature Conservancy opened streams for fish habitat, installed fencing to protect riparian habitat, planted native trees and shrubs along stream banks, and converted ditch irrigation to pipes to reduce water losses.
In its 2009 funding cycle, the enhancement board provided $37,684 to the Klamath Watershed Partnership to replace a culvert on Snake Creek, a tributary of the Sycan River. Additionally, a water wheel will provide water to an offstream trough for livestock in the area, deterring the animals from the banks of the creek.
It also provided $16,500 to the Klamath Basin Rangeland Trust to add about 15 wooden structures to provide habitat diversity and spawning gravel to Crooked Creek, a tributary of the Wood River, which feeds into Upper Klamath Lake. The project will plant native trees and shrubs and install a solar pump to bring water to livestock off-stream.
Page Updated: Friday September 18, 2009 03:10 AM Pacific
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