The Middle Fork Willamette Watershed Council focuses on two subwatersheds for the Model Watershed Program: Little Fall Creek and Lost Creek. Both subwatersheds sit below the main stem river dams and offer unimpeded access to spawning and rearing habitat for spring Chinook, winter steelhead and other native fishes. The condition of riparian corridors of each creek vary depending on landowners and historic use, but most are in need of some invasives control or protection. Both streams were historically splash dammed, which reduced or eliminated channel complexity as logs were driven down the creeks. The flume-like conditions limit the ability of these streams to recover themselves, requiring active restoration by the Council to restore watershed processes that will sustain suitable fish habitat.
The Council conducts outreach along the stream corridors and has secured support for invasives removal, riparian revegetation and culvert replacements along Lost Creek and instream habitat enhancement along Little Fall Creek. Future work includes flow restoration and instream habitat enhancement in Lost Creek.
In 2010, the Council secured funding to design and implement a channel enhancement project along the length of Little Fall Creek, a 20-mile salmon-bearing stream in the southern Willamette Valley. Little Fall Creek, an undammed tributary to the Middle Fork Willamette River, currently provides the most suitable and accessible habitat for spring Chinook and winter steelhead and has the highest potential for additional future habitat within the 865,000-acre watershed. To benefit these fisheries, recommendations from a 2001 stream assessment and 2010 strategic prioritization process identified increasing channel complexity through placement of large wood or boulders as the highest priority restoration action.
In partnership with Weyerhaeuser, the USDA Forest Service, Meyer Memorial Trust, the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board (OWEB), BEF and private landowners, the Council worked with River Design Group to survey channel geometry, complete modeling and develop project designs for wood and boulder placement in priority reaches of Little Fall Creek. Phase I project implementation activities are planned through 2015. Baseline condition data was collected in 2010 using methods developed by Model Watershed Program partners. Effectiveness monitoring of the project will occur through 2018 to help determine the Council’s success in creating essential habitat for the Upper Willamette River Evolutionarily Significant Unit (ESU) spring Chinook.
—Eve Montanaro, Executive Director, Middle Fork Willamette Watershed Council