SALEM, Ore. (KTVZ) — The Oregon Watershed Improvement Council has awarded $587,919 to the Jefferson County Soil and Water Conservation District for two projects to improve water quality. water and restore fish and wildlife habitat in two parts of the Deschutes River watershed.
OWEB has awarded $121,007 to help the Conservation District and its partners install structures known as beaver dam analogues at Campbell Creek, which empties into the lower Deschutes River. Built with natural materials like twisted, untreated poles and woody branches, these man-made structures mimic dams created by beavers, slowing water flow and trapping pollutant-laden sediment before it reaches the Deschutes River. . The beaver dam analogs will be installed at Campbell Creek in early 2023.
“Analogs of beaver dams act as natural water filters. They can help remove many pollutants from the creek,” said Ally Steinmetz, watershed coordinator for Middle Deschutes Watershed Council, which is partnering with the Conservation District for the project. “By slowing the movement of water, they also help reconnect the floodplain to the stream, which promotes riparian vegetation and habitat.”
OWEB also approved a second grant totaling $466,912 to the Conservation District for a project in the watershed of Trout Creek, a tributary on the east side of the Deschutes River. Decades of grazing, fire suppression and climate change have allowed junipers to encroach on what should be grasslands. The Conservation District will first remove the junipers, then conduct five prescribed burns over the next four years to clean up the resulting biomass and reinvigorate the growth of native grasses and shrubs. Parts of the area will also be reseeded with native grasses.
“Removing the junipers will return the landscape to a healthy prairie ecosystem,” said Conservation District project manager Adam Haarberg. “A healthy prairie contains dense grasses and native shrubs that allow the soil to safely capture, store and release what little precipitation the area receives. Juniper, on the other hand, is very thirsty and retains water, to the detriment of native plants used by wildlife. Additionally, native grasses and shrubs provide much better habitat and forage than juniper for native wildlife, including mule deer, elk, and ground-nesting birds.
The project, which will begin this spring and end in the fall of 2026, covers more than 1,700 acres. Previously, OWEB funded two other juniper removal projects the Conservation District has underway in the Trout Creek watershed, which Haarberg says are “very promising.”
About the Jefferson County Soil and Water Conservation District
Jefferson County Soil and Water Conservation District is a special purpose district that provides land improvement assistance to farmers, ranchers and citizens of Jefferson County, Ore.
the Oregon Watershed Improvement Council is a state agency that provides grants to help Oregonians care for local streams, rivers, wetlands, and natural areas. The agency is governed by an 18-member Citizens Council drawn from the general public, tribes, and boards and commissions of federal and state natural resource agencies. Funding comes primarily from the Oregon Lottery, the federal Pacific Coast Salmon Recovery Fund, and revenue from state salmon license plates.