Douglas projects show fish, ag can coexist


Capital Press

ROSEBURG, Ore. 3/02– Fish and farms can co-exist. Two projects recently completed in Douglas County in Southern Oregon are evidence.

A small concrete dam on South Myrtle Creek east of Myrtle Creek was removed and seven property owners below the dam now have pumps and pipe systems for irrigation, instead of less efficient leaky ditches and flood irrigation. The project was completed in the spring of 2001 and mature adult chinook salmon were seen farther up the creek last fall. Officials say the dam removal opened up 10 more miles of fish habitat.

“If you don’t take care of the creek and the fish go downhill, it’s only a matter of time before a mandate comes up the creek telling you what to do because the fish are dying off,” rancher Mike Danielle said. “If the creek goes bad, it makes the property go bad and it loses value.”

Danielle was hired as the project manager because he was on site daily. The dam was located 12 miles up the creek, which is a tributary of the South Umpqua River.

On Clover Creek east of Roseburg, four miles of the waterway was fenced. Hard rock crossings and a culvert were installed for use by livestock and vehicles. The creek’s bank and buffer strip were planted with alders, ash, maples, cedars, pines, fir and oak.

That work, phase one of the project, was completed last summer. Phase two will follow this summer involving placing logs to create pools, replacing a culvert that is a fish barrier and planting another 8,000 seedlings. Work to improve the fish habitat on the next two miles downstream is also planned.

Five property owners are affected by the project.

“We are stewards of the land,” said rancher and project manager George Sandberg. The main consideration was to stabilize the banks and slow the erosion process. The next step is to enhance the fishery.

“It’ll take time for the brush and trees to stabilize the ground, five to 10 years, and then we’re hoping fish will come farther upstream.”

The Umpqua Basin Watershed Council of Roseburg coordinated the complete funding for these two projects, and for many others in the county.

These projects also have received funding from the annual Umpqua Fishery Enhancement Derby, an event involving professional river fishing guides and their anglers. Project applications are accepted by a derby committee which determines where to use the funds. In the derby’s 10 years, it has donated over $350,000 to fish enhancement projects in Douglas County.

Dave Loomis, an Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife fisheries biologist and a member of the derby committee, said that cooperative fencing agreements have been a popular project in the last five years. Other projects have involved streambank protection, erosion control, plantings and off-channel watering for livestock, including ponds, wells and springs.

“For these projects, it’s not only acquiring and matching funds, but also a blending of ideas and expertise to come up with a good overall management plan for private land,” Loomis said. “A fun part of these projects is meshing the goals of private landowners with the fish and wildlife management goals. It’s just a matter of coming together for discussions over a kitchen table.

More and more landowners are wanting to be good stewards of the land and more and more programs are available to provide technical advice and funds to improve overall health of private land in Oregon, he said.

“Salmon and agriculture can mix,” Bob Kinyon, the Umpqua Basin Watershed Council coordinator, said. “If there’s landowner resistance, we don’t force them because we have enough work to do with the people who are interested. We’re getting more calls and we can help with the funding on these projects.”

South Myrtle Creek Project Ê

Mike Danielle has lived on his ranch along South Myrtle Creek for 11 years. He never liked being the water regulator for six other property owners who irrigated using water backed up by a concrete-foundation dam.

“There were constant problems with the neighbors getting enough water,” Danielle said. “I was getting most of the aggravation and very little benefit.”

So when Douglas County watermaster Dave Williams approached Danielle about a change, the landowner was more than eager to listen. He then encouraged his neighbors to sign up to switch to a pump system.

“It was a hard sell because it had been free water,” he said. Pumping has the added expense of electricity and maintenance.

But down the road, regulation would force it, because the dam was a fish barrier. “And then there might be no money available,” Danielle said.

Property owners were required to provide a 10 percent cost share, in cash, labor or equipment.

Danielle praised government people involved with the project. For the most part, they “ didn’t come here with the attitude of we’re going to do this to you. They said we can make this work for both you and the fish.”

Clover Creek Project

Cattle and sheep pastures belonging to five landowners border the 4 miles of Clover Creek that have been enhanced in the last two years.

The project was put together in 1998 when $50,000 from the Valdez oil spill became available and had to be allocated in a month. The Umpqua Basin Watershed Council alerted Clover Creek landowners.

Most were receptive, said project manager George Sandberg.

“This was going to benefit the landowners, livestock production and the creek.”

The project included developing springs and installing pipe systems to troughs providing livestock drinking opportunities away from the creek.

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