Make the McKenzie Connection!

Utilities launch River projects

Metro municipalities partner with non-profit to improve fish habitat

Watershed mapThe Eugene Water & Electric Board and the Metropolitan Wastewater Management Commission of Eugene and Springfield have partnered with a water conservation organization, The Freshwater Trust (TFT), on two separate programs that improve the health of the McKenzie River.

The Freshwater Trust will develop a survey program in the McKenzie River watershed for EWEB to identify key river frontage for conservation.

The TFT is working with the McKenzie Watershed Council and Upper Willamette Soil and Water Conservation District to collect and analyze vegetation and habitat data from 14 reference sites. That information will be used to help define subbasin-specific characteristics and plant communities that constitute a diverse and healthy riparian system, according to TFT com-munications director Adrian McCarthy.

By using a tablet application developed by The Freshwater Trust – StreamBank Mobile – data collection efforts are expected to be more efficient than ever before, and will increase the effectiveness of field work and data analysis. TFT will build a field protocol for EWEB’s Voluntary Incentives Program to clearly define the criteria for site inclusion, and apply that to private landowner pilot sites in late 2014. Comparing landowner vegetation conditions to reference site conditions will determine landowner eligibility for the incentives or recommend restoration pathways.

“As the sole source of water for more than 200,000, the McKenzie River has high scenic, recreational, residential property, agricultural and forestry value, as well,” said Joe Whitworth, president of The Freshwater Trust. “By incentivizing private landowners to conserve streamside vegetation, this program protects the water quality of this important river and potentially avoids more costly water treatment methods down the road.”

Just a few miles away, the Metropolitan Wastewater Management Commission (MWMC) – a regional wastewater entity formed through a partnership between the cities of Eugene and Springfield and Lane County – has undertaken a pilot program to demonstrate the cost-effectiveness of a water quality trading program for its requirement to comply with temperature limits on the treated water it discharges into the river.

The MWMC has contracted with The Freshwater Trust to restore streamside vegetation within the MWMC’s watershed service area, to reduce the solar load on the water via shade. The MWMC identified two tributaries within the Willamette River-McKenzie River watersheds that are high priority for protecting fish habitat and water quality. One site is on public land on the Mill Race, and TFT has recently secured a lease for a second, privately-owned site on Cedar Creek. Both were cleared of invasive plant species and are will be replanted with native streamside vegetation over the next three years.

Once the temperature benefits of the restoration actions are verified, water quality trading credits will be purchased by the MWMC. The pilot is designed to demonstrate the feasibility of a streamside shade credit program, if the MWMC decides to expand it at a later date to comply with future pollutant limits. The approach could be a more cost-effective way to comply than building new infrastructure at the wastewater facility.

“Together,” according to McCarthy, “EWEB’s incentives program and MWMC’s shade restoration program begin to build a framework for a comprehensive source water protection approach in the McKenzie watershed. Riparian vegetation serves as a critical component of a healthy stream network by contributing to shade, reducing soil erosion, adding woody debris necessary for cold-water fish spawning and resting habitats, and preventing sediment, pollutants and excessive nutrients from entering the waterways.”


McKenzie River Reflections


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