Multiple large landslides within the Big Creek Subwatershed created meadows that historically functioned to store large volumes of water for gradual release later in the flow period. Thus, these meadows can extend the base flows into the drier summer months. Deadwood Creek reaches 1-3 is a depositional valley formed by the largest landslide within Big Creek and along with Big Creek reach 4 composes the core depositional features used for steelhead spawning within the Subwatershed. Deadwood reaches 1-3 have grass-dominated streambanks with alder communities that are being overtopped by lodgepole pine. These low gradient reaches have been drying out due to the absence of beaver. A lack of large woody debris or persisting beaver dams has resulted in channel incision. Fire suppression has led to an overly dense stand that created poor large wood recruitment and reduced biodiversity. The confluence of several tributaries with Big Creek is characterized by a steep gradient. Large wood is needed to control the grade and initiate pools within this section of the creek.
Wet meadows are becoming increasingly important water reservoirs. Increasing ambient air temperatures are predicted to cause both temporal and spatial changes in the delivery of fresh water. Scientists anticipate increased winter runoff from water melting earlier in the season and falling as rain rather than snow. This will cause earlier peak streamflows in the spring and diminshed runoff during the hot summer months. The outcome of these changes will be significantly altered flow regimes. Anadromous fish runs are adapted to typical flow conditions. The predicted changes in snowpack means that the John Day Basin will have to rely more heavily on other forms of natural water storage. Wet meadows collect and store runoff, which not only helps prevent seasonal flooding, but also ensures the availability of water throughout the dry summer months.
Unfortunately, the hydrologic function of several meadows within the Big Creek-Middle Fork John Day Watershed has been impaired by the presence of gullies and incised channels which transport water off the meadow. The result is a dry, dusty meadow with a decreased water table and reduced riparian vegetative biomass and biodiversity.
For this project, the Malheur National Forest chose to use the natural resources available rather than bring in man-made materials. Large Woody Debris (LWD) was placed in the streams to concentrate scour, store sediment, and promote the creation and maintenance of quality pools. The LWD placement consisted of 80-100 large trees (diameter at least 12 inches) per mile and 438 small trees (diameter between 4-12 inches) per mile. Twenty percent of the large trees were greater than 20 inches in diameter, at least 35 ft long, or 1.5 times the bank-full width of the stream.
This project pioneered a new strategy for wet meadow restoration. Healthy wet meadows act as nature’s sponges by soaking up available water, storing it, and slowly releasing it during the dry season. However, the meadows in this project had been drained by gullies and incised channels which conveyed the water off the meadow much faster. For this project, trees and brush were cut and placed in the incised channels to decrease the flow of water running off the meadows. The North Fork John Day Watershed Council provided five youth crews to perform the task of installing the woody material into gullies of each of the six identified meadows.In one meadow, the benefit of the work was visible within only a few days. As the meadow began to rehydrate, the wet area increased in distance from the filled channel.
The 13,400 acre Desolation Creek, LLC property is situated in Northern Grant County. It borders the Umatilla National Forest and the Bridge Creek Wildlife Area and encompasses 10 miles of the seminal Desolation Creek. The land was purchased in 2014 with the primary stewardship goals of restoration and community development. The landowners maintain access to the public and encourage responsible hunting, camping and recreation use. The property also serves as a grazing allotment for 3 ranching families in Grant County.
Since the land was purchased, NFJDWC has secured grants through various funders and facilitated the implementation of a number of resource improvement projects, including:
The landowners and NFJDWC are committed to continuing efforts toward a restored and self-sustaining landscape on the Desolation Creek, LLC lands. Applications for 2017 have been made and planning is ongoing. We are looking forward to all the good work that is to come.
The Deep Creek Culvert project is an ambitious project with the goal of improving stream function and fish passage for this beautiful and scenic corridor near Granite, OR. Field work started July 15th 2014, and will finish up with the in-stream work window at the end of August.
Components of this project include:
Replace 1 culvert at the junction of Deep Creek and the 7370 Road.
Replace 1 culvert at the junction of Bull Run Creek and the 7370 Road.
Realign the stream channel to allow flood plain access and prevent culvert failure.
Move part of FS Road 7370 out of the flood plain and along a better route of travel.
We are replacing the culverts with concrete tunnel structures that are open-bottomed and well clear of the stream-bank, allowing for a large flow event and preventing failure and destructive erosion. The road had been moved at least once in the past; probably redesigned to prevent automotive accidents. We are placing the road back in the original location at the top of the project, but using the existing junction with County Road 24 to maintain a safe intersection. This design will provide a wide floodplain and riparian area while allowing public access to this area.
The Council has used these concrete structures on other projects that have worked out quite well. One, pictured here, is about a mile up County Road 24 on the 7375 road where it crosses Bull Run Creek. The structures function well, allowing unimpeded flow year round, great fish passage, and will handle 100 year flow events.
The Channel realignment is what makes this project work. The old Deep Creek Culvert made the stream take a hard right turn, then a hard left, making it difficult for high water events and fish passage alike. The Culvert had failed repeatedly in years past, and was simply not performing as required.
By shifting the stream channel back into its more natural position, our partners achieve many things: First we solve the hard bends and flooding issues that plagued the old culvert. Second, The flood plain is opened up to this small stream, improving water quality and hyporheic flow. Then also, accesss and quality of habitat is greatly improved to Bull Trout, Redband Trout, Chinook Salmon and Steelhead Trout, all of which are present in this system. Finally, all of this is accomplished while maintaining recreational and functional access to this beloved, but little known, public area.
Partners on this project include Confederated Tribes of Umatilla Indian Reservation, Wallowa-Whitman National Forest, Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board, and The Whole Watershed Restoration Initiative(Ecotrust). The North Fork John Day Watershed Council is always indebted to our partners and greatly appreciate the work they do to accomplish the things we do together.
Copyright © 2017 North Fork John Day Watershed Council