NOAA and partners use settlement funds to restore central Oregon’s Beaver Creek

Winter 2013

Habitat restoration is underway in Beaver Creek on the Warm Springs Indian Reservation in central Oregon. In 1999, a spill discharged 5,388 gallons of unleaded gasoline into the watershed, and much of it went directly into Beaver Creek. The spill resulted in injuries to Chinook salmon and steelhead and their habitat. After the initial emergency response and cleanup, the Beaver Creek Trustee Council, which includes the Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs Reservation of Oregon, NOAA, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, focused efforts on a series of habitat restoration projects using settlement funds. The goal is to improve fish habitat by addressing excessive sediment loads and high water temperatures throughout the Beaver Creek watershed.

In 2012, Tribal members implemented two riparian fencing projects with settlement funds—the Happy Valley and Red Lake riparian fences. Both projects were constructed through existing programs managed by the Tribe’s Natural Resources Program. Fifteen workers were employed, including staff from the Tribe’s Summer Youth Program, Habitat Program, and Restoration Crew. They built four miles of fence that now protects 150-acres of habitat. These two projects protect riparian habitat and water quality by minimizing erosion from livestock and wild horse grazing. In 2011, a similar fencing project was implemented in the lower reaches of Quartz Creek using settlement funds. One year later, there are noticeable improvements in riparian vegetation and in-stream conditions.

Settlement funds contributed to the implementation of two additional projects in the Beaver Creek watershed this past summer. A road removal project removed and decommissioned parts of an old forest road to open side channel habitat for fish. Removing the road also enhanced the quality of floodplain and riparian habitat along this reach of Beaver Creek. Crews also added large wood to the stream at the project site to provide rearing and refuge habitat for salmon and steelhead. A second project added large wood to an additional site on Beaver Creek. The placement of large wood provides habitat and restores natural stream functions that are important components of salmon and steelhead habitat, like the creation of pools. Riparian plantings at both these projects were completed in September.

Scientists are monitoring all projects implemented under the Beaver Creek Spill Settlement to make sure they are improving habitat conditions for salmon and steelhead. Restoration efforts like these will contribute to the long-term recovery of Middle Columbia River steelhead, which currently is listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. These projects also will protect the non-listed Chinook population that migrates through this watershed.

As a trustee for the Beaver Creek Spill, NOAA is involved in the planning, implementation, and monitoring of these restoration projects through the Damage Assessment, Remediation, and Restoration Program. The program protects and restores natural resources injured by releases from waste sites, oil spills, and ship groundings across the country. To learn more about Beaver Creek and the Damage Assessment, Remediation, and Restoration Program, please visit: www.darrp.noaa.gov/northwest/beavercreek

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Photographs: (home page) At Lower Quartz Creek, an incision through volcanic ash from Mt. Mazama. This page: a new fence excludes cattle and wild horses from sensitive riparian areas at Happy Valley Creek. Photographs courtesy NOAA Restoration.