Within the scope of its Model Watershed partnership, the Long Tom Watershed Council focuses on three subwatersheds: Coyote, Bear and Ferguson Creeks. The watershed landscape is dominated by historic oak savanna and prairie habitat, with the headwaters draining from the eastern foothills of the Coast range. Bear and Ferguson Creeks sit below a regional dam and offer cool water refugia for cutthroat and high flow refugia and rearing for out-migrating Spring Chinook.
Each Model Watershed creek in the Long Tom is water quality limited for temperature and dissolved oxygen, and has/had significant fish passage challenges. Even with these limitations, the systems have thankfully still managed to support native cutthroat trout populations.
The Council had been successful in implementing a large number of culvert and barrier removal projects to increase available habitat for cutthroat and are installing extensive large wood placement and riparian revegetation projects along the streams through neighbor-to-neighbor encouragement. Leveraging knowledge acquired through the Model Watershed Program, the Council has also made improvements to its planting and maintenance approaches, which has significantly improved its revegetation success.
The Council spent 2010-2012 developing a series of anchor restoration project areas with key landowners in Ferguson Creek and Coyote Creek.
In Ferguson creek, landowners have implemented riparian planting, installed livestock fencing to protect high value riparian habitat, removed key fish passage barriers, and enhanced a 2.5-mile complex of river floodplain and prairie habitats. These projects allow trout from the Long Tom River to access improving habitat all the way up to one of Ferguson Creek’s primary headwater areas.
In Coyote Creek, additional projects are underway to remove fish barriers, fence and plant riparian areas and remove an instream dam. These projects will be implemented between 2011-2013, with funding primarily from the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board (OWEB).
The Council also spent substantial time in 2010 on assessment, monitoring and maintenance. A fish barrier inventory assessed over 150 culverts and reached 80 landowners, creating a 90% complete picture of the barriers and streamside habitat conditions facing fish in all three model subwatersheds. Leveraging the aid of state and federal partners, the Council studied cutthroat trout migration and habitat use by tagging and tracking fish. Some baseline monitoring was completed for the above projects using the Model Watershed Program regional protocols. Maintenance of riparian plantings occurred on 16 project sites in order to stabilize and protect the Council’s former planting investments.
—Jed Kaul, Restoration Project Manager, Long Tom Watershed Council