Five John Day River restoration projects will receive $489,100 in funding from the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board.
The North Fork and South Fork watershed councils will use the funding to enhance fish and wildlife habitat for chinook salmon, steelhead and bull trout, restore clean water, increase water quality and reduce fire risk.
“Native fish in Grant County, including salmon, steelhead, bull trout and redband trout, need cool, clean water,” North Fork John Day Watershed Council Executive Director Valeen Madden said.
• In combination with Forest Service funding, the North Fork council will remove multiple old log weir dams and historic railroad berms on Clear Creek in the Middle Fork of the John Day River drainage near Austin.
The work, which should be completed this year, will improve passage of juvenile fish during low stream conditions and help reduce water temperatures.
• With additional funding and assistance from the Forest Service and Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs, the North Fork council will work to reduce stream temperatures in Camp and Lick creeks, which enter the Middle Fork of the John Day River just north of Galena.
Willow, cottonwood and dogwood will be planted along the streambanks to provide shade, and large logs or other natural structures will be placed in streams to create pools. The two-phase project should be completed by next year.
• Working with two private landowners, the Eight Iron Ranch and Eight Mile Basin LLC, the North Fork council will build fences on the Middle Fork of the John Day River west of Highway 395 near Ritter to keep livestock out of streams. The project could be completed next year.
To provide livestock with an alternative water source, upland water sources will be developed by using natural springs to feed watering troughs filled by gravity flow. The project also calls for removing juniper and thinning overstocked forest around the spring.
• The North Fork council will also build buck-and-pole fencing this year to protect rare aspen habitat along Fox Creek, which flows into Cottonwood Creek, a tributary of the North Fork of the John Day River, near the town of Fox. Juniper will also be removed in priority areas.
• The South Fork John Day Watershed Council will use OWEB funding to improve river habitat in the southwest corner of Grant County. In the Big Flat area, 183 acres of western juniper will be removed on the Keerins Ranch at the headwaters of Flat and Brisbois creeks to reduce water temperatures for native fish.
“Big Flat is at the headwaters of many redband-bearing streams, but closest to Flat Creek and Brisbois Creek,” said Amy Stiner, the executive director of the South Fork John Day Watershed Council. “In both watersheds, streamflows are very low or even nonexistent during summer months.”
The Keerins Ranch plans to develop a watering system for a new well to support a natural spring that goes dry much of the year to provide upland livestock habitat. The South Fork Council will assist by removing juniper in the Big Flat area, Stiner said. The area is also considered winter range habitat for elk and mule deer, she said.
“Both the North Fork and South Fork John Day watershed councils are working collaboratively with other agencies and private landowners to make our streams healthy for native fish,” Madden said. “We are grateful to OWEB for their support, to our partners for working collaboratively with us, and to Oregonians for supporting this kind of work throughout the state to keep our water clean and our fish abundant.”