The North Santiam Watershed Council has focused its restoration efforts on three subwatersheds: Bear Branch Creek, Stout Creek and Valentine Creek. As tributaries to the North Santiam River located below the River’s mainstem dams, these streams offer critical refugia for ESA-listed salmonids. The streams, however, exceed summer water temperature standards and lack the habitat complexity needed to fully benefit salmon and trout. The Council has implemented multiple projects along contiguous reaches of these creeks, installing large wood, revegetating riparian and wetland corridors, and removing invasive species before they spread.
In addition to its local efforts, the North Santiam Watershed Council is also part of a formal subregional partnership with the Calapooia and South Santiam Watershed Councils, where the partners share staff and other resources to help achieve collective restoration goals. This arrangement has allowed the Councils to expand their restoration program delivery and increase effectiveness.
Decades of land use impacts have resulted in a channelized stream and limited native riparian vegetation in the lower mile of Stout Creek. A detailed stream assessment and consultation with state fish biologists revealed that placing large wood within the lower reach of Stout Creek could offer outstanding potential to improve habitat for native Chinook salmon and steelhead. In the fall of 2010, the Council used Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board (OWEB) funding to place over 15 complexes of large wood in the channel on three properties. Within days of completing the project, one landowner reported seeing rearing fish already resting under the log structures.
The Council began revegetation by densely planting native trees and shrubs after mowing invasive reed canarygrass and preparing planting sites. Riparian area maintenance will occur over the next few years to ensure revegetation success.
In partnership with Marion County’s Weed District and Soil Water Conservation District, the Council targeted eradication of several priority invasive weeds in Valentine Creek and Stout Creek sub-basins using the Early Detection and Rapid Response approach. Landowners were mailed information to request permission to inventory and treat weeds, and the Council secured access from the majority of landowners in both basins. Fortunately, the Council discovered that the populations of invasive weeds were small and manageable. Additional landowner access, inventory and treatment took place in 2011.
The Council received funding from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation’s Pulling Together Initiative for the project. This grant complemented an earlier Japanese knotweed control project along Stout Creek funded by Oregon Department of Agriculture.
—Liz Redon, Former Council Coordinator, North Santiam Watershed Council