Mill Creek Watershed Restoration
The MidCoast Watersheds Council, working in partnership with ODFW, completed a restoration project in Mill Creek (Siletz basin). 679 logs were placed in 57 large wood structures in 6.8 stream miles throughout the coho distribution in the sub-basin. The goal of this project was to address limiting factors in the basin of habitat complexity, primarily winter rearing habitat. This project will be followed up by an extensive Effectiveness Monitoring project (OWEB grant #215-1039). Partners in the project with the MidCoast Council and ODFW include Plum Creek Timber (now Weyerhaeuser), Oregon DEQ, and OSU College of Forestry.
BUCKLEY CREEK CULVERT REPLACEMENT
Buckley creek is a direct ocean tributary roughly two miles north of Waldport, Oregon. The creek is occupied by native cutthroat trout, possibly brook lamprey and other aquatic and wildlife species. The site is an important freshwater wetland with beaver pond complexes and a diverse array of habitats. The Buckley Creek watershed area is roughly five square miles.
Previous Federal Emergency Management Agency projects replaced two 48” culverts on Buckley creek in the Silver Sands neighborhood upstream from the project area. These projects left one 48" culvert restricting flow on a private driveway. The culvert underneath this driveway is the last before the stream runs into the Pacific Ocean, just south of Driftwood Beach State Park. The owner has dealt with flooding caused by the remaining 48" culvert in any heavy rainfall event.
To complete this project, we paired a willing landowner with an Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board small grant. The culvert replacement was done in late September, installing a new 94" squash tube culvert to increase wetland connectivity, alleviate fish passage issues and reduce flooding on adjacent properties.
Crazy and Cougar Creeks Passage Design Technical Assistance
SUMMARY OF PROJECT
The MidCoast Watersheds Council is in the process of developing engineering designs for 3 stream crossings (replacements of culverts), including decisions on replacement type, replacement designs, replacement cost estimates, construction traffic management plans, and construction traffic management cost estimates. Partners include the United States Forest Service (Central Coast Ranger District), Lincoln County, and Lane County. Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board Funds are being used to hire an engineering firm to develop designs for 2 of the crossings, and the USFS will be using internal staff to design the third.
The designs of two bridges have been completed, and we are now actively seeking funding for the implementation of these projects in the Five Rivers (Alsea) area.
Yaquina Beaver Habitat Rehabilitation
Background on the Problem: Over the past two decades the MCWC and contractor Bio Surveys LLC have noticed and documented a major decline in the numbers and sizes of beaver ponds in the MidCoast Region. We found this to be ominous, as beaver ponds can greatly improve habitat for salmonids, particularly juvenile Coho Salmon and Cutthroat Trout. One of the areas where we documented a major decline was in the upper Yaquina basin. In 2007, Bio Surveys conducted a Limiting Factors Analysis of this area for the MCWC, and found 20 beaver ponds, and numerous places that had had ponds previously. Examination of Aquatic Habitat Inventory (AQI) data collected between 1992 and 1997 for the same streams showed records of 128 ponds.
In this area, streamside flats that had previously been beaver ponds were colonized by Reed-canary Grass, which was forming such dense stands that native woody vegetation could not become established. This grass does not provide either suitable forage or dam-building materials for beavers, so re-colonization was prevented. Reed-canary Grass needs full sun to prosper in this area, so if enough trees can be established to shade it, it will be weakened, and other understory vegetation can colonize.
This project was designed to plant woody hardwoods that beavers use as forage and building materials on some of these former pond sites to make the sites suitable for recolonization and new dam construction. The primary project site was “Trib X” which is an unnamed tributary of the Yaquina River located on the Harmsen Ranch near Nashville, OR. We used a small excavator to scalp through the grass sod in preparation for planting on a series of meadows along Trib X of the Upper Yaquina, then planted large nursery stock through 1m2 mats. We planted Black Cottonwood, Big-leaf Maple, Vine Maple, Oregon Ash, Red Osier Dogwood. Trees were protected using individual cages of fencing wire. We also planted native willows, but those were cuttings collected locally. We then hired a contractor to release the plantings for three years to get them to “free-to-grow status.
We also planted willows and hardwoods in other sites in the Yaquina Basin, including Feagles Creek, and along other small tributaries of the Upper Yaquina. The intention in all sites is to remove the cages once the trees are large enough, and let beavers feed on them and use them for building materials.
This project was assessed and photographed in February 2016. On the Trib X sites, survival is good (70%+). Cottonwoods have grown to over 55’ tall (10'+ added height in the past year), and Bigleaf Maples and Oregon Ash to 12’-30’. Maples are beginning to spread, with elongating lateral branches. Willows at Trib X have continued to grow substantially in the past year, and many are now bushy and over 15’ tall. In the western most portion of the planting a few trees appear to be supporting the beaver population, with browsing occurring where woody vegetation pokes out of the protective caging (see image). The Vine Maples are smaller, but expanding laterally.
On the Feagles Creek site, the Willows still protected by fencing are growing and putting up multiple shoots. One exceptional tree is 50’ tall. However, a second portion of the planting, along the creek channel has been harvested repeatedly by beavers. These willows continue to re-grow from their rootstocks. The beavers have not constructed a winter-persistent dam on this site as of 2/20/2016.
Lower Yaquina and North Fork Beaver Creek
This is a restoration activity associated with a large, multi-watershed stream restoration project in the Lower Yaquina and North Fork Beaver Creek watersheds. This project placed large wood habitat structures in a total of 9 miles of stream via helicopter and ground placement, including Wright Creek/Poole Slough, Mill Creek (Yaquina), NF Beaver Creek and Peterson Creek. There were several landowners involved including Siuslaw NF, van Eck Forest Foundation, Plum Creek Timber, City of Toledo, The Wetland Conservancy, and a private landowner (lower Peterson Cr). Most of the LWD placement was done by helicopter in fall 2014. ODFW and USFS biologists coordinated and oversaw the wood placement. ODFW’s Habitat Restoration Biologist provided the overall project management and coordination of efforts.