--FOSSIL - Efforts are under way to develop a region-wide John Day Subbasin Plan that will cover 8,100 square miles in east-central Oregon.

Representatives from area watershed councils, soil and water conservation districts; tribal, local governments, and state and federal natural resource agencies serving Sherman, Gilliam, Wheeler, Grant, Crook and Morrow counties are involved in the planning process and have appointed representatives to serve on a John Day Subbasin Coordinating Committee to provide input and oversight to the planning process.

Presentations to give the public information about the plan are scheduled across the subbasin region, to watershed councils and soil and water conservation districts this month and next, then to local governments and commodity and civic groups.

The John Day River is the longest free-flowing river with wild salmon and steelhead in the Columbia Basin.

The John Day's subbasin takes in Grant, Gilliam and Wheeler counties and portions of Sherman, Crook, Harney, Jefferson, Morrow, Umatilla, Union and Wasco counties.

The upper part of the subbasin is one of Oregon's most physiographically diverse regions with mountains, rugged hills, plateaus cut by streams and valleys. The lower part of the subbasin is a plateau of nearly level to rolling land deeply dissected by the river and its tributaries. The mainstem John Day River flows 284 miles from its source in the Strawberry Mountains to the Columbia.

"There have been a lot of individual plans and studies for parts of the subbasin by SWCDs, watershed councils, and governmental agencies in the past, but this is the first time we know of where all of these agencies in the John Day subbasin have come together to work on a project for the subbasin as a whole," said Karl Niederwerfer, director of Pendleton-based Columbia-Blue Mountain Rural Conservation and Development, which is providing administration for the project.-"It's a valuable process that will hopefully lead to further collaborations."

The John Day Subbasin is one of 62 subbasins in the Columbia Basin Plateau in Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Montana. It is the fourth largest subbasin in the state of Oregon - bounded by the Columbia River to the north, the Blue Mountains to the east, the Aldrich and Strawberry Range to the south, and the Ochoco Mountains to the west.

The Northwest Power and Conservation Council, an agency involved in mitigating the effects of the hydropower system on fish and wildlife in the Columbia Basin, launched subbasin planning in the four states this past year, funded at $15.2 million by Bonneville Power Administration.

BPA is expected to provide $186 million for fish and wildlife projects annually in the Northwest over the next four years with the guidance of the council.

Subbasin plans must be completed by May 28, 2004. Goals, objectives and strategies developed in each plan will then be used as a basis for prioritization and funding for area projects by BPA, the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Council, the federal Bureau of Reclamation and other state and federal agencies.

Completed subbasin plans will also serve as a guide in recovery planning by federal and state agencies, including areas that include salmon listed under the Endangered Species Act.

-"This is truly a grassroots effort," said Karl Weist of the Northwest Planning and Conservation Council. "Development of the subbasin plan is dependent upon local input by stakeholders as well as agencies."

Weist said by developing subbasin plans at the local level, the council hopes to achieve locally-involved planning that will direct funding to the projects that will do the most good.

Rick Barnes' firm of Barnes and Associates of Roseburg has been hired by the RC&D to serve as project manager for the John Day Subbasin Plan and to conduct its technical writing. Lyn Craig's grant writing firm, Provisions of Fossil has been hired to provide public relations and outreach.

Presentations regarding the John Day Subbasin planning process scheduled to date are as follows: Sept. 24, Wheeler Soil and Water Conservation District and Mid-John Day Watershed Council, Big Service, 7 p.m.; Oct. 7, Monument SWCD, Monument, 7:30 p.m.; Oct. 14, Sherman SWCD, Moro. The plan was discussed at the North Fork John Day Watershed Council meeting on Sept. 16. For more information, contact Rick Barnes at (541) 673-1208 or Craig at (541) 763-2355.

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