Our Klamath Basin Water Crisis
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#5 Larry Dunsmoor Power Point Presentation, tribal biologist
For those of you who don't know me, I'm the chief biologist for the tribes. I've been working here since 1988 and come to really love this place. It's a rich, diverse, and fascinating aquatic system here with just enough challenges to keep you busy. I'm going to talk to you guys today about aquatic restoration and focus on the area above Upper Klamath Lake. As you know, I wrote this title and I thought it's kind of trite you know, The Path To A Better Future. But then, I just couldn't think of a better thing to write because I really believe it. I think that there's a lot of important things going on, but one of the indispensably important things is the health of our aquatic ecosystems. I don't think anybody could formulate an argument here that one of the foundational elements of the conflicts we've all been going through is the condition of our aquatic ecosystems and the resources that rely on them, or in, right now. So this had better be a focal point for all of us if we're going to make it through this.
Aquatic ecosystems. They have always been extremely important to the Klamath Tribes. This is a neat shot of one, well, I'm not the right person to talk about this, but this is a method of netting fish of out a canoe that was just ingenious and fascinates me. Anyway, it's a great shot. I wanted to show it to you. The aquatic ecosystems supply just a wealth of resources to the tribal folks, but it is really a mistake to always use the past tense when we talk about the provision of resources for the tribal folks or for anybody else for that matter. I mean, everybody is tied to the resources, the tribal folks are just tried to them in a different way and to a greater extent in some ways. But, it is a mistake to divorce ourselves from these ecosystems. Because of their importance, the tribal management efforts, particularly over the past 2 decades have really taken a sharpened focus in the aquatic resources, and I think that is true for most of us here. I think these things have just come to the forefront in terms of their importance, and here are some of the reasons why: We've seen extensive degradation over the past century in our resources. We now have a hypereutrophic Upper Klamath Lake. I don't want to dwell on the problems, but it's important that we start with 1 foot in the mud hole so that we see where we are coming from. There are a lot of things that go into the problems that we've had, but there is no denying that the problems have been experienced. The conditions that we have through our watershed here, have just generated tremendous conflict. Not just up here, but all the way down to the mouth of the Klamath. I think and I hope that everyone involved in these conflicts are now acknowledging the need to restore the ecological integrity of these systems, and the folks that don't understand that, we all need to work to get them to understand that. So, what's the goal. One way of phrasing it is to restore and protect healthy systems that are going to provide for everybody's needs, and there are 2 simple steps there. We look across the landscape, and we see which healthy pieces are left. We protect those things. Then, we look around and we see which pieces are absent, and we do what we can to restore those pieces. You know, it's pretty simple really. I have just a couple of slides here. They may be a little bit dense, but I promise they won't last very long, but I just cannot do this without going in to some of this stuff. We're talking about managing for healthy aquatic resources, so we have to understand these complex systems well enough to adopt a proper stewardship approach to using them. Because, if there is one thing that is certain, is that these resources are going to be used. It's not a question of whether or not to use them, it's the question of how. So, we have to recognize that in particular, aquatic ecosystems, like rivers for example, they're threads that flow across these wide areas of the landscape. Because of that, they're linkages. They link a lot of the things that are working in an ecosystem across the landscape, upstream and downstream, and then there are also really strong gradients of linkages from the upslope areas down to the down slope areas. I guess the main point I want to make here is that we need to not just think of a river as a river, we have to manage a river; we have to manage the landscape that the river is flowing to. We have to always approach ecosystems from an understanding that they are not simple things. But, they're not so complex that we can't understand them well enough to make wise decisions. It's a tremendous challenge to approach these things with wisdom, but it's a possible thing we can do. I think that we really have a lot of momentum in this basin in terms of advancing of our understanding of how this place that we live in works. I think as every year goes by, we're better and better able to make good decisions on the landscape. One of the reasons that we value ecosystems is because they produce things for people. Tribal people value them for a wide variety of uses, and nontribal folks also value them for a variety of things they produce. I think no one would argue that something like fish are very important resources that people want to use. So, the extent to which a river or a lake system is going to produce those resources for human use is going to be a direct reflection of the integrity of the complex linkages that are in place in an ecosystem, and our challenge is to identify which of those are crucial and then to make sure we manage these systems in a way that maintains the integrity of those things. Approaching it from this angle, there are 2 central concepts we want to think about. There is the structure of an ecosystem, which is just basically the physical attributes that the system is built on. So, it's like how steep is the river? What's its gradient? How wide is it? What kind of gravel or sediment is moving through it? Things like this. These are things that we tend to change, like when we built a highway right alongside side a river, we tend to straighten the river out. Well, that's a major structural change in that river. There are lots of examples like that. The forester and wildlife folks that you've seen talking earlier have been talking a lot about the structure of the forest. Well, those same concepts come right in to the aquatic ecosystems as well. We focus on those things, because those are the things that we generally can change, and they're the things that make up sort of a skeleton of an ecosystem, and how the ecosystem then functions is dependent on not only which of those structural elements are present but what kind of condition they're in. So, if we're looking for an ecosystem to function, to say, have low nutrient loads and a lot of fish, then we have to pay attention to the structural elements in the ecosystem that will get you there. So, that's the challenge that we have. I think it's pretty well understood that we really need a lot of ecosystem restoration in this basin, so this is how we're approaching it. First, we want to look at the system and understand what it used to be like, to the best that we can. It's real important to start from the beginning with these things, because ecosystems are complex. They're different across regions of a continent, and what happen here isn't necessarily what happens elsewhere, so we have have to look and make our best stab at how this place used to work. Then, we look at how the structures across the landscape have been changed. Have we channalized rivers? Have we put in dams? Do we have extensive diversions off rivers? What's the riparian condition like? All these sorts of things. We have to understand how those structural changes resulted in changes in how the ecosystem functions. Then, we move on to identifying the key structural elements that we need to pay attention to, that we need to either improve or protect to restore the functions that we want to see coming out of these ecosystems.
Having done that, we need to take a good hard look at the landscape and figure out what things have changed that we're just not going to change. I don't think anybody is going to move Klamath Falls, for example. So, if you want to do something with, say Lake Euwana, then you have to recognize that there are highways and all this stuff in place. So, that can constrain the kinds of actions that are available to us. They're important but pay attention to those things. Then you cycle back, and you say, "Well, we've identified these key structural elements. How can we deal with them within the constraints that have opposed across the landscape?" Then you restore them, and then you don't just walk away and dust off your hands and say, "Well, we're done with that." You have to watch really carefully. You have to monitor the response to your restoration. This is something that, we have to learn how to do this because I'll tell you what. It's usually not done. Usually a project gets funded. We go out, and we throw it on the ground, and then everybody walks away from it. There is a lot of lip service paid to monitoring, but frankly, it just doesn't get done at the level that it needs to be done at. This is just crucial because if we're going to learn from what we've done and fix any problems that arise, if we're not watching it, we're not either going to learn or get things to where we had hoped they would get. I think it is clear, but we need to say it explicitly. The goal here is not to return the Basin to it's pristine condition. It is probably not possible, and it's probably not desirable, but we do need to restore the capability of the ecosystem to produce these products that we all value so highly, and that is definitely possible, and not only possible, but I think necessary. Haven gotten through the dense stuff, I hope, I just want to whip through some concepts that sort of shares our view of how in particular these valley bottom river systems are functioning and identify some of the key structural elements for us all to be thinking about. If you go up to a river and just take a cross-section out of it and lift it up out of the ground, this is what you end up with. Believe it or not, these are suppose to be willows or riparian vegetation of some sort. I don't draw that well. This is the river channel itself. This is the water. These represent just logs, you know, large woody debris laying in the water. This is the drier surface of the flood plain, and this is the water table. So, those are just kind of the central features of my little cartoon here that I hope will get some points across to you. In a healthy condition, this is what we should see in a main stem river system. You can think about any of our mainstream rivers. You think about the Lost River. You can think about the Sprague River, Wood River, Williamson River, Upper Williamson River. These are the kind of systems that I have in my mind through this. While you won't see woody species everywhere, sometimes we have sage and rush communities, you will see them in many places. So, just for the purposes of illustration, that is what I'm using here. So, you'll have this essentially riparian forest with these species with really great roots. Roots are everything. They're indescribably important almost and something we need to get back. They provide a lot of functionality to these systems. They're like rebar reinforcement in these river banks. Water is very powerful stuff. It's very erosive. So, flowing water is always exerting a lot of erosive force on a river channel. That's a given. What isn't a given is the extent to which those erosive forces can be resisted by those river banks. That is very much determined by the extent to which you have these extensive robust roots all throughout your banks. When these things are present, this allows the river to really become diverse. In these sorts of valley bottom rivers, these rooting structures maintain the integrity of the river channel. They allow the formation of ripples and pools, allow the river to get really sinuous with all the meanders. All those sorts of things are all bound up in the health of that riparian community. In some systems, where you have more tree-like species as part of that community, you're going to have dead trees fall into the river, and those provide real important habitats and structural features in rivers as well. In addition, one of the real benefits you get to these riparian forests, is they provide shade on the river. Now, they don't function so much to cool the water off, as they do to keep the water cool. You can think of them kind of like pipe installation. As long as you have really good coverage of these riparian forests, they really hold the cooler temperatures in the water as it goes through the reach. Once the water warms up, it's a lot harder to cool it off again. So, it's really important to be thinking about that. In a healthy river system, you're going to have a pretty narrow river channel. It's going to be fairly narrow and fairly deep. This functions to cause frequent over bank flooding, so that when the water levels come up in the spring, the river comes up out of its bank and it occupies its flood plain. The further you depart from this healthy, narrow, deep cross-sectional configuration of a river channel, the less frequent your flooding events become. It'll take a higher flow to get the river up out of its banks. This functionality is real important. You know, there is a lot of water coming down the system during a flood. If more of that water is forced to remain in a channel, it is pretty easy to see that the erosive forces in the channel become greater. When the river is allowed to get up out of it banks fairly quickly as the stream rises, then the erosive force is dissipated out over the flood plain. That is an important function. In addition, alot of that they recharge the ground water in most flood plains. Then through the year, that cooler ground water seeps back into the river system and provides summer base flows, a very important function. In addition, there's a lot of nutrients, as we well know, coming down our systems. Flooding is very important. It provides an important function of carrying those nutrients out on the flood plain and depositing them there. Flood plains are kind of natural storage areas, not only for water, but also for nutrients. If they're not functioning well, then both the water and nutrients just move on down the system into places like Upper Klamath Lake during the high-flow events, and we know what that results in. So then, during the summertime when the flows go back down, in these healthy systems, you still have nice contact of the flood plain with the water table, so you get a lot of sub-irrigation of the plants that are growing up there. These are the sorts of things that you would expect to see in a healthy river channel.
This is just 1 example of what it can look like. This is on the south fork of the Sprague River, up above Bly. There are a lot of features here. I'm going to show you this picture again a little later and talk about it, so I'll just move on. We've seen a lot of changes in our river systems here in the basin, and I think one of the earliest and most significant things that happened here is we lost our riparian vegetation, or an awful lot of it. That had immediate dramatic results. It results in destabilized banks. We lose that rooting structure, and those erosive forces are always in the water that are pressing on those banks. They rapidly erode those destabilized banks, and you end up with a wide shallow system that is choked with the bank sediments. So, like I say, it becomes wide and shallow. This is just an example to show you how it has changed from it original narrow and deep configuration. So, you've lost your insulation provided by the riparian vegetation. You have a lot more surface area exposed to the sunlight and the atmosphere, and so you get increased water temperature. Your channel complexity greatly decreases, and your fish habitat is greatly reduced. You can also reduce your frequency of over-bank flows, because even though it's shallower, it's still real wide, and frequently you end up with, and actually have, a larger cross-sectional area than that healthy narrow channel. So, it takes a bigger flow then to get that river up out of bank. We've diminished the functionality of our flood plain. We're not storing sediments and nutrients in it like we should be, and those things are moving on down the system, and that's the kind of dynamic that changes a natural eutrophic lake like Upper Klamath Lake, into the present hypereutrophic system that sustains these massive blooms of algae that have caused us all such headaches. Now, when we see our flows come down in the summer, there is an abundance of nutrients. There is no limit to the sunlight, and we see the channel just get choked with algae. When we see that change occur, and unfortunately we've seen that happen over large areas in this basin, we end up with systems that look like this, and we have to fix this stuff. It can actually get worse though, and has in some places. Depending on a variety of factors I'm not going to go into, you can actually get channels digging their way down into their flood plains. It is called incision, and it works sort of like this. As you start to convey more flood flows, you get all these erosive pressures on your river bottom, and you've lost your stabilizing riparian vegetation and as a result, the river actually cuts its way down into its flood plain, and so you end up with a river and a trench. I think everybody has seen these sorts of things. You can relate to what I am saying. This just worsens the situation of the loss of flood plain function. Now when you get floods, obviously it will take a really good-sized flood to get up and occupy the flood plain. So, you're not dissipating the erosive forces in the channel. It is all staying in this trench, which means it is going to be super hard for any plants to get established down here. They're always going to get torn out by floods. You're not getting backup letting the water filter back into its flood plain and store itself there. You know, if you think about the earlier slide where the water table was up here, the difference between that position and this position is all natural storage. Everybody is talking about increased storage in this basin, well I would suggest that one of the first places we want to look at are the flood plains in the river reaches that have been incised. I think there is a lot of storage to be had there. So anyway, we've lost a lot of that storage functionality. We've lost some of the nutrient-retention capacity there by failing to occupy those flood plains properly, and when the water table drops down to low flows in the summer, you end up with sagebrush growing up on these places. The water table is just dropped out from underneath it, and you'll have sagebrush right up to the banks of the river. Here's an example where you can see that. You've got sagebrush growing up right up to the banks. The river is down in a trench, and it's something we need to work on. Moving away from the cross-sectional view of a river, if you kind of get up in a helicopter or something and look down in the valley, this is sort of my little conception of a system like the Sprague River, what it would look like in a healthy river. You'd have the river channel that is really sinuous and meanders across this really gently sloping valley bottom. This darker green band is the riparian forest that I talked about and with a flood plain extending on either side. If I just outline the original, I'll call it a, healthy channel, and then we contemplate the loss of the riparian vegetation and then the channel destabilization that comes with it, in addition because of the effects of that, that I showed you in a cross-sectional view, what ends up happening is you get this event that moves up your river system. The river gets wide. It cuts off a lot of the meanders. Now, instead not only does each channel get wide, but now you have multiple channels, so if you add all those up, the river is really wide. In some reaches, as time passes after this event has occurred, well then some of the old meanders will be completely lost, and the water will tend to take a straighter pass through the system. In other area, the old meander will still be occupied, but there will be a cutoff. We see both these things happening in our systems with a high frequency. This is a classic example. This is on the Sprague River, and you can see here, you've got cutoff, cutoff, cutoff, cutoff, cutoff, cutoff, cutoff. I mean, virtually all these meanders are cutoff, and it actually is kind of working on it right here. The probable original configuration of this channel was something like this. So, we've straightened it out. It is greatly widened. The water temperatures are high. Fish habitat is poor. The whole suite of things is occurring here. So, we can look back as far as 1872 on some of the reaches of our rivers. In the original surveys, the geolo surveys, they actually did some pretty intensive surveys where they did what they called, they meandered a river, so they actually surveyed in the existing channel at that time. There are not very many of these, and that's unfortunate. I wish we had these for every reach. But, if I trace that original river channel in red, and then we proceed on to some of the existing air photos, our first air photos are in the 1940/41 time period, and if I overlay that original channel configuration on the photo, you can get a feel for the changes that happened. Then, coming up to the present, I can do the same thing. So, if you string a sequence like this together, then you can start to look at some of the things that have happened. We've seen a tremendous change in this reach, for example. Oops, let me go back. There has been a lot of cutoff activity. If you come over here, you see a lot of cutoffs again that weren't originally there, and the same here. You can see locations where the original river channel was completely gone essentially, so we have lost some of the length of our system.
There is another reach. This is also on the Sprague River, same kind of a sequence, and again, you can see places where large portions of the river channel have been completely lost, and the river has just straightened itself out. So, these are the kind of clues that we look for, but ecosystems are complex, and it's not to say that all rivers are always going to behave the same way. For example, you can look in this little piece here. Well, these meanders didn't cut off, so does that mean there is no problem there? Well, no, you will have seen a real widening of the river channel in these regions. Sometimes these rivers don't cut their meanders off. They just get wide and stay in their original meander pattern. So, there are a lot of different forms this can take, but my point here is, it's good to look back as early as possible, track changes through time, and use that information to figure out what is going on. Now, from that same survey work, I was able to approximately regenerate the widths for some of those reaches. So, if you look at the condition in 1872, the estimated channel width on those, based on that surveying information, is listed here in feet. So, you can see there is a lot of diversity in how wide that river was, which is completely to be expected, and it's a very healthy thing. Diversity is a good thing. Pools tend to be wide, riffles runs can be a lot narrower. It's a healthy thing. But, as you come into the present and go to those same locations, you see that systems in general are much wider, and so by just tracking the changes between 1872 to 1998, these are the points that have widened, and these are the points that have actually narrowed to some extent. So, the preponderance of change is in this column. We see a lot more width to these channels.
Width is something I really focus on because it's a direct reflection of the stability of the banks, and it's one of the things that really needs to be addressed throughout our systems. They're much too wide. We need to narrow them up. How we do that is one of our challenges. The same situation exist on the Upper Williamson. Here is the earliest available map. Now, they didn't meander the system, in other words, this isn't the exact course of the Williamson River in terms of tracing each and every meander. But, this does give us some important clues. These circled areas here, the surveyors documented as willow thickets. Some of them were upwards of 800 feet wide. Those are not features that we presently see up there. So, that gives us a good clue to how that system once functioned. Also, there is a very large wetland area where Jackson Creek came into the system. So, these are the kinds of things that we want to look at and build into our approach of how we want to restore things. Also, we want to be really active about collecting information that helps us to understand how the systems are working at present, and to give us guidance as to how we can go about changing them to provide the structural and functional attributes that we want. Along these lines, we have been working for the last couple of years on a nutrient-loading model development for the Sprague River system.
Phosphorus These are our sample sites that I showed here with the red dots, extending from the north fork and the south fork of the Sprague, basically where they come off the Forest Service on down through the system, well down on the Sycan, and then all the way down to near Chiloquin. I just want to share some of what we're finding out there with you. So, if you go up to the north fork at the elbow there, where it is coming off the forest, I am going to show you a series of these plots. Don't get too hung up on them. All they do is show time from March 2001 all the way up to September 2003 on the x axis and then the red line is tracking how many kilograms of phosphorus are coming past this point on the river every day, and the blue line is how much flow is coming past that point. So, the red line tells us how much phosphorus we're getting. The blue line tells us how much water we're getting. I have these scales pretty large so that these graphs will be directly comparable to the ones you are going to see as we move on down through the system. On both the north and south forks, we see almost identical patterns. We're not getting very much phosphorus from these is the bottom line here. What phosphorus is coming down these systems, tends to come done during the high flows, but there is very little. As you look at the Sycan, down near the mouth, you're seeing something similar. You're seeing higher phosphorus loading than you are seeing from the north and south forks. But still, fairly low. Now, if you move down in the main valley, we see a dramatic change from this. You see much larger peaks in phosphorus. So, before you were down in this range. Now, you are up in the range during the flood peaks. This is over 500 kg of phosphorus that was moving past that site during this flood event per day, and over here is nearly 300, 250. So, between these points on the north and south forks and this point on the main stem Sprague, we're seeing significant phosphorus loading occur. As you move on down through the system, you see that we're still maintaining essentially the height of the peaks, but we've added even a few more peaks, so...
Some Woman: Where are you there? Larry: This is the Lone Pine bridge.
Phosphorus and TMDLs This is at the bridge near the power station just outside of Chiloquin, and still we're seeing high loads of phosphorus moving down the system. By carefully measuring the phosphorus movement through the system, it can help us understand better where the sources of phosphorus are, and it also gives us a good basis for monitoring whatever we choose to do from this time forward. We've got a good solid baseline data stock that we can use to evaluate the success of whatever restoration actions we choose to undertake. So, recall the flood plain functions that was discussing... When we have a river system that is looking like this, these are conduits for nutrients. There is nothing here that is going to hold nutrients. They are going move on downstream, and during the summer months, those nutrient levels are going to feed these incredible amounts of algae that grow out in the river. So, as a result of these functional impairments that we've seen on the landscape, it is no surprise that we seen things like most of our main stem systems listed on the DEQ 303-d list leading to the TMDLs that we have. It's no surprise that we have a hyper-eutrophic lake at the bottom of this watershed, and with a TMDL to attempt to address that. By the way, this is the assessment of the phosphorus TMDL that shows the estimated contribution of external loading of phosphorus down the Klamath Lake by proportion. I want to stop showing the ugly pictures. I think it is necessary to build a foundation for where we go from here, but you know, we're here to figure out what to do about it, so let's move to a more positive thing. I think the first thing we need to do is we have to start moving the same direction. Let's point our heads into the river and start to swim. I think one of the biggest things we need to do is to make sure that when we do something, that we're really doing something to address the actual problem. Too often we try to deal with the easier things, the symptoms. We throw Band-Aids. We toss aspirin at these things, but we're never really touching the foundational problems. We have to, and I think really to get to this point of actually doing things that will really make the difference, we have to have some level of agreement and mutual understanding as to what these problems really are, and I think if we fail to take the steps that get us to that point, then by taking the other steps of actually trying to do things, we're sort of putting the cart before the horse and building conflict into whatever we do, so I'm hoping we can do better about that. What are some of the things that we can and should be doing? We should be looking hard at restoring some of these wetlands around the Upper Klamath Lake. These pink areas are areas that are in some form of restoration at present. The brown areas are drained wetlands that are still being put to agriculture uses, and the green areas are the remaining undrained wetlands that exist here. Like I say, these areas are in various stages of either restoration use or a use for water storage, and I think there is a lot of work that needs to be done in these areas, but it's moving in the right direction. For beginners, these areas were major sources of phosphorus loading to Upper Klamath Lake. So, changes in management here are beneficial. We can really see a decrease in nutrient loading as a result of these efforts. Through proper management, I think we can see a dramatic increase in the provision of important nursery habitat for suckers. Let's say we were to breach the dikes and just let them become once again part of Upper Klamath Lake as they once were. Well, we'll see an immediate increase in the storage capacity of the lake. We also need to manage lake levels within the natural range of variability.
Lake Levels and evapo-transporation Here is a picture of what the marsh in the back of Shore Water Bay for example looked like in the beginning of October, roughly this time of year, in 2002. The lake level was 4138.57, and you can see extensive areas of completely dry lake bottom there. You know, it's one of the challenges we face, but just as during, you know like the 2001 event, you can go out and see dry farmlands. Well, on a much higher frequency, you can out into Upper Klamath Lake and see this sort of a feature. So, it's important that people keep their eyes open and look all over the landscape to see what the impacts of what we're all doing really are. Now, I suspect that many of you were thinking about the merits of storage when I made the comment about breaching dikes and restoring wetlands will increase storage in Upper Klamath Lake, because there's been an awful lot said about evapo-transpiration losses in wetlands. I would like to see us really inform those discussions with the best available information. Now, here is just 1 example. This is a USGS study that I pulled off the web. Anyone who is interested in it, you can download it right here. These are estimates of evapo-transpiration losses in Ruby Lake. Ruby Lake is just south of Elko in northeastern Nevada, and it is a similar system to the Upper Klamath in that its a very shallow remnant of a pluvial lake with a very large emergent tule marsh associated with it. So, what these folks did, is they went out and they measured evapo-transpiration losses in a variety of habitats available including the open water areas, the open bars, and the bulrush marsh, which are the crosshatch bars, so the Y-axis here at the height of the bars represents the average daily evapo-transpiration losses from these habitat types on a monthly basis, as you move across the x axis here. You can see, in almost every case, evaporative losses of water from the open water areas are greater than in the bulrush marsh. It's not the case in every month that they measured, but it is in most of them. So, if you total those up over the year and compare the open water to the bulrush marsh, during the summer there was slightly more, just a couple of inches greater evaporative loss from the open water areas than from the marshes. The annual total with their separation, a little over 13 inches.
Now, I'm not going to sit here and say this is the exact situation in the Upper Klamath Lake, but there is some research that has been done in the Tule Marsh at the northern end of Upper Klamath Lake that suggests lower evapo-transpiration losses than in the open water areas in the lake, and I think more work needs to be done on this, and I think more work is being done. My only point, and I think more work needs to be done on this, and I think more work is being done. My only point here is, to encourage people not to reflectively, automatically say, "Oh, the wetlands, theyíre just going to use more water, and so wetlands arenít good storage." Well, I donít think that that is a very defensible position, and I think, instead, we should be exploring that, accumulate the best information we can, and explore the potentials that that offers, because you know, weíre not only dealing with the issues of water storage here, but there are an awful lot of values that comes with wetlands. So, Iíll leave that point. I just wanted to get you thinking a little bit about evapo-transpiration. Now, moving back up the river system. What can we do? Well, we can protect and enhance riparian vegetation that is growing on the riverbanks and the flood plain. Iíve talked a lot about it.
Hereís an example from the Sprague River. On one side of the river, we have an unprotected stream bank. On the other side, we have a protected stream bank. This is about 9 years, I believe, into the change in management on this system where there was a fence put up and grazing is managed on this side. So, itís really important, to like I said before, not to just do something like this and then walk away from it. We need to do it and then really watch it close and then learn from how the system responds. For example, one of the things we expect to see from something like this, when we regain the stability in the banks, we expect to see that river channel start to narrow itself over time. It will, inevitably, do that. The only question is how long is it going to take? Is it going to take 100 years, or is it going to happen in 5 years? Well, I suppose if it happens in 5 years, you will know pretty quick. If the difference is between 20 and 100, then the monitoring is really important. We need to watch that and see what kind of species colonize and how long it takes and how much sediment these areas are attracting.
There is just a whole bunch of stuff we need to look at. When you go to that point in the system, you see willows that have germinated and started to grow. I have already talked about how important those are and the reaches that should be dominated by willows, it is very important that we get them back. Something that frequently happens is, we all run out, and we plant willows all over the place. We need to really put a lot of thought into how that happens. It can be a good thing, but it can be something that will completely fail also. If you put willows in the wrong spot, theyíre not going to make it. Natural regeneration really is best because the willow is going to grow where itís supposed to grow, just like this one is. Let the system tell you where to plant. In this same reach here, this is a freshly deposited patch of bedding material. We call it bed load, it is the stuff that doesnít float down the system but gets pushed along the bottom. This is the stuff that rivers are made of. Bed load is really important. The suspended particles, a lot of them will stop moving down the system. They will go down and deposit in the slow moving water near where itís in the vegetation. So that is something we call roughness. Itís a real important attribute. So, this kind of bed load, it builds banks. This was deposited here. Now, when that happens in the spring, the plants grow in through the year, and during the next flood, this might stay there, and so as that occurs year after year, you see how things can build. The rate at which these banks will build is going to be a direct reflection of how much of the sediment is moving down through the system.
If you have a really high sediment supply, then you have a chance to see a really quick and profound natural response to change in things like grazing management that would result in increased bank stability. But, if you donít have a lot of sediment coming through the system, then youíre facing a situation where the river is going to take a really, really long time to rebuild itself. Itís an important consideration Iím going to come back to. So, one of the things we also know, both from other studies and our own studies, is that phosphorus moving down the river system is closely associated with suspended sediment load. Phosphorus molecules actually associate themselves with some of the suspended sediments, which you can see from this graph here. This is real simple. All we have is the concentration of phosphorus in a water sample expressed in terms of how many milligrams there is per liter of water against total suspended sediments. So, all this is showing you is that as the total suspended sediments increase, so does the level of total phosphorus, and it does it in a very predictable manner. This is a mathematical equation. This line represents a mathematical equation. Statistically, this is a very significant relationship, a very clear relationship. So, Iím not going to show you a bunch more graphs, but I can tell you that these high-suspended sediment events tend to happen during the flood flows, that is why you see the peaks in the phosphorus loading on those earlier graphs. So, this is a really important hint, okay. If we manage suspended solids, then we are managing phosphorus. So, how do we manage suspended solids? Well, we restore the functionality of our riparian systems. This isnít impossible stuff to understand. It is pretty clear-cut in a lot of ways. The things that we can do: We can take actions to reduce suspended solids from reaching the river. Thatís going to be done by increasing whatever structural elements of the river channel or flood plains that function to store nutrients. So, here is an example. Again, here is that picture I was showing you earlier on the south fork of the Sprague. This is a short distance downstream. This is a good shot of a flood plain. So, if I kind of paste these two together, itís more or less what you see if you are standing there.. So, look at what the riparian vegetation here, most willows and alders, has done for you. Here in the foreground you see a wide spot. Okay, this is a big pool. Then, the pool tails out and as it tails out it gets a lot narrower. Then, it goes into sort of a ripple run type of feature. If we lost all the riparian vegetation here, and it destabilized, what you would see is probably very little or no variation in the width through here. It would all be wide like this. You wouldnít see the sorting and substrates. You wouldnít see a deep flow followed by a shallower ripple run. It would probably be pretty much filled in with sediment. It would all be one depth. The stability that you get from these riparian plants is what enables this sort of structure to develop, and you can see the dense casing of willows along this reach that is holding it all together, and then when the water gets up out of bank, it comes out here on this well-vegetated flood plain, and this is where you deposit most suspended solids and the nutrients and all that. This is just a good example of the kind of features that we have lost and need to get back.
Water Temperatures When Oregon DEQ did their TMDLs, they flew much of the basin with a helicopter that had a forward-looking infrared sensor mounted on the front. The acronym for that is flare. It allows them to accurately measure the surface water temperature in these river systems. It is a really valuable data source, so here you can see the flare image that tells us what temperature the water is, and here is just the regular video image, so this is just a shot on the upper Williamson River at Wickiup Springs that gives you a pretty graphic example of the importance of ground water in some of these systems. When the analysis is done on the flare images, it reduces them to a color code, so the temperature of the water corresponds to the number in these various color boxes. So, in this area up here, weíre somewhere between 70į and 72į Fahrenheit. Then, here is Wickiup Springs bubbling up out of ground at about 54į to 55į Fahrenheit. The flows of Wickiup are great enough so that when those two streams mix, you are seeing temperatures down in the 61į to 63į Fahrenheit range. There are good examples of this all over this basin. Weíre blessed by a lot of springs here by our artesian aquifers. They have held parts of our system together in terms of temperature. Here is another example, just an unnamed spring on the Sprague River where itís coming into the river at about 59į to 60į Fahrenheit and the Sprague River, at that point, is around 70į degrees Fahrenheit, and after they mix, youíre down around 66į to 68į degrees Fahrenheit. So, itís extremely important that we protect and enhance the groundwater discharge areas. These springs not only have a lot of thermal benefits, but they have an awful lot of benefit to fisheries, for example. There are frequently areas in systems like the Sprague and Williamson in width for that matter where for example our large red band trout that live in the lake and migrate up these systems go to spawn. The endangered suckers spawn in these areas as well. They are very important biologically. Hereís an example of irrigation return flows, surface water irrigation return flows, to the north fork Sprague. Where you can see them here, they are around 75į . Those are obviously not going to help out the water temperature very much, so another thing we can do is work to eliminate the warm surface irrigation return flows. I think there are a variety of innovative ways to do this. Iíve seen situations where a drain that used to deliver the irrigation return water directly to the river is now pumped back into the supply ditch, so that it just cycles again, so the only form of irrigation return flow is subsurface, which should substantially cool the water off as it goes into the system.
A rule of thumb, I think to the extent it is possible, is once water has been removed for irrigation, it should not return as a surface flow; that is something we can work towards. Here is an example in the Sprague River as to the vital importance of the ground water in the system. I donít have time to go in depth here. This is just a summary plot of some modeling work that has been done. If you take the major ground water wells that are being used for irrigation in the Sprague system and contemplate an extreme condition in which they are no longer used for irrigation purposes, we wanted to see what the expected response in the river would be. This is position in the watershed, so this starts at the very top of the Sprague River watershed, I believe at the south fork is where this runs. Then, it comes on down the system all the way down to the confluence with the Sprague. So, thatís how that works, and then this is just the water temperature again, degree Celsius. So, the current conditions of this red line, things get pretty warm, they get up into the 70 Fahrenheit, above 20į . If we were to go in there and narrow up the river channel and get willows growing all over the place, stuff like that, the model predicts this light blue line as a response to that, you know, a modest change in water temperature. If we were to only restore the flows from the artesian aquifers that are presently being depleted by these large wells, we would expect pretty dramatic response to water temperature in this system. That is the green line. If we did them all, the dark blue line is the extent of benefit we would expect to get. I just show you this to demonstrate how important ground water can be in a system like this. As you contemplate the Sprague River and understand that once it supported good-sized runs of salmon, and you look at it today, and you scratch your head, and you wonder well how could this river have ever supported salmon, here is your answer.
Dan Keppen: Do you have air temperature plotted on there Larry?
No, donít have air temperature on here. But air temperature will of course be the same across these runs, Dan. This is based on the same day model as the DEQ TMDL. In fact, it was the heat-source model that they used, just modified to accommodate changes in ground water input. So, if we can find the innovative ways to reduce the reliance on ground water in the Sprague, for example, itís pretty clear that weíre going to see a real improvement in the water temperature situation, which is one of our really major problems that we face in the Sprague, is the warm water. Okay, jumping up to the Williamson River. Again, this is the same sort of plot. This is starting at the very headwaters of the Williamson and moving on down into the marsh. This piece here is the Upper Williamson, and then moving on downstream all the way down, I think, to the lake. You can see the water comes out real cold, and then there is a, hold on a second. I donít want to make that point. Iím trying to move quickly here. My problem is that I can talk about stuff for too long. The point I want to make here is, the difference between these lines. Itís similar to the last one. The current condition is the red line where we have currently a pretty warm condition, and all I want to point out here is the potential improvement that we can get through various activities. The green line contemplates the situation in which we have decreased channel width appropriate to the kind of river weíre in and also increased riparian shading. You see a pretty good response to that. The blue line is where weíve done about all you can do, which is fix the channel, fix the riparian system, and increase the amount of water that is going through the system. Forgive me; I did have it backwards. This is the headwater up here, and it flows down to the Klamath Marsh, and this is where Spring Creek comes in, thatís what was throwing me. Had it backwards. The important thing here is to see there are incremental benefits to various ways to restore these systems and we need to bring tools like this to bear to help us understand the extent to which these benefits can be realized. So, guess I already said that. Like I said before the trick here is to keep water cool as it moves down the system, not to try to cool it down after it is already warmed up.
Moving away from water temperature to just healthy river channels again. Here is a time-sequence shot of the Wood River. I think many of us in here have seen this. This is the project that, you know, the BLM and Oregon Trout and the Tribes and a whole bunch of folks participated in. In 1941 when the wetlands system was just in the initial stages of being changed to agriculture uses, this is the original path of that channel, and then in 1960, you can see there is more development of dikes and tow drains and what not, and then by í93, we had the condition that many of us are familiar with where a major dike was build by digging out from essentially the river. This was a really bad situation, extremely shallow water, virtually no habitat benefit at all instream. A pretty major channel-reconstruction project was done that I think has been very successful and is a good example of sort of one extreme of what is possible to do with these systems. This was an expensive project. I donít think anybody contemplates this as being something that we can do on every inch of stream in this basin, but it is a good example of what can be done, and I think in that case, if you were going to fix that, there wasnít much else you were going to do; it was changed too dramatically. Hereís a similar example on Agency Creek, owned by Jim Root, Grant Matthews has just recently done this. This just shows where as a result of various things that had happened on this system, it was really quite wide. This is a just a little spring-dominated creek. Itíll take forever for a system like this to narrow itself up to where it should be on its own, to where it is not carrying any significant sediment load or flood flows, so itís common that you will need to do some active construction on a system like this. When you do it, itís really ugly while you are doing it, but then when youíre done, you have a system that is much narrower, and you put it back into kind of a template condition, where it can start to regain itís natural structure and become functional again. Again, on the more extreme end of what kind of thing that can be done, is you can go into the reach of the Sprague River, for example here, this is just a conceptual plan that a group called Water Consulting came up for as a result of some work done for the Ecosystem Restoration Office, where a variety of things were identified as being possible things that you could do. The solid yellow line is where old channels, old abandoned river channels would be reconnected to the river. The green crosshatches are reaches where existing cutoff channels would be plugged and converted into little wetlands. The dotted yellow lines are areas where you would perhaps do some things to narrow the channel. So these are the kinds of things that can happen, but their big projects, theyíre expensive, and there are a lot of risks associated with them, so itís real important that before we just launch into things like this, we do the kind of assessment work that really needs to be done. We are presently engaged in a valley-scale geomorphic and hydrologic assessment of the Sprague River System, the purpose of which is to inform projects up and down that river system and to front load a lot of the assessment work that needs to be done for specific projects. So, before we move into a site and really launch into extensive work, we really need to understand what is going on in that site and put it into the setting of the valley. So, as I said, weíre in the process of doing an assessment, and also weíre hoping to get some LIDAR work done on the valley.
Itís something Iím real excited about. LIDAR is just an acronym for laser something or other, I donít know. I donít know all the actual terms there, but essentially itís pretty simple. Theyíve got a laser in an airplane. They fly over an area just like they were taking aerial photos, but they use that laser to balance off the ground, and you get these extremely accurate topographic maps that are actually digital, and so you can pull them right into your computer, and you can base all kinds of analyses on them. They are extremely useful, and I think not only useful from, say a river restoration standpoint, but I think they would tremendously useful to the landowners in evaluating alternative approaches to, you know, managing water for example. It really helps if you have a really accurate map, and you may see possibilities that you hadnít thought of before. So, the bottom line is, there are lots of different things you can do on these river systems. You need to inform them with good information and good thinking and the possibilities range all the way from just simple changes in management to completely reconstructing river channels. So, I just want to close with a thought here. Weíve all been in a train wreck. Weíve been pretty torn up. Itís been pretty painful for all of us, and I certainly hope that we can all get kind of on the same track here and start to work for the same things, and I think that no matter what else happens, we need to restore the integrity of these aquatic ecosystems, and I just hope that that is something that we can come to rapid agreement on and really get moving on. So, thatís all I have for you. Applause.
Page Updated: Thursday May 26, 2011 03:18 AM Pacific
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