March 2016 Council Meeting Minutes


MINUTES

March 10, 2016
McKenzie Watershed Council
McKenzie Fire and Rescue
Leaburg, Oregon

 

PRESENT: Council Partners: Diane Albino, facilitator (Mohawk Watershed Partnership), Terry Baker (McKenzie River Ranger District), Brian Brazil (International Paper), Bob Bumstead (McKenzie Flyfishers), Kurt Cox (Resident Partner), Arlene Dietz (Rice Family Farms), Chad Helms (Army Corps of Engineers), Randy Hledik (Wildish), Loren Leighton (International Paper), Rod Fosback (NW Steelheaders Association), Steve Mealey (McKenzie River Guides Association), Joe Moll (McKenzie River Trust), Craig Patterson (Resident Partner), Ralph Perkins (Upper Willamette Soil & Water Conservation District), Dave Ralston (Springfield City Council), Steve Raymen (Resident Partner), Maryanne Reiter (Weyerhaeuser Company), Mark Schulze (HJ Andrews Experimental Forest), Wade Stampe (Resident Partner) Sue Zeni (Resident Partner), Jeff Ziller (Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife); Staff: Justin Demeter, Melanie Giangreco, Larry Six, Jennifer Weber, Jared Weybright, Amanda Wilson,; Guests: Dave Kretzing, Greg Taylor, and Daniel Dietz.

 

ABSENT: Carol Ach (Resident Partner), George Brown (Eugene City Council), Nate Day (McKenzie River Schools), Mike McDowell (Resident Partner), Andy McWilliams (Resident Partner), Keir Miller (Lane County), Karl Morgenstern (EWEB Staff), and Mark Stephen (Bureau of Land Management).

 

Proxies: None

 

  1. INTRODUCTIONS AND APPROVAL OF AGENDA

Mr. Six introduced new Council members and staff. Members provided introductions. Approved request to switch Item 6 to Item 2 on the agenda.

 

  1. COUGAR DAM UPDATE- Greg Taylor, USACE

Mr. Taylor gave an overview of the Willamette Project which includes 13 dams and reservoirs as well as hatcheries in the Willamette Basin. Last summer was the driest on record, with drought conditions throughout the state and 70% of Oregon in a state of extreme drought. Low precipitation levels resulted in low enough water levels that minimum stream flow levels necessary to operate some of the hydropower dams were not met. This year, precipitation levels are still below average, but much closer to average than last year. Last year, dams were approximately 50% full by the end of the season. Currently, dams are approximately 40% full and are filling normally for the season, with the exception of Cougar and Fall Creek.
In June, woody debris was found in the hydropower units at Cougar Dam during annual maintenance. This type of material can cause catastrophic failure and hydropower units have been completely shut off since November. It was found that the trash racks in the bottom of the tower were laying on the floor and allowing debris directly into the tower. The plan is to fix this as fast as possible, which involves drawing down the water level in the reservoir. A tentative schedule was presented for draw down and repair. Each rain event will delay the project schedule, but so far the draw down is on track. There was an increase in turbidity when the diversion tunnel was first opened, but turbidity levels are now close to normal and are expected to stay on track and maintain good water quality. Adult fish traps will start running again when the refill starts, but will be more effective once everything is back online.
Currently, there are three ESA listed fish in Oregon. In order to comply with the ESA, the USACE has been focusing on downstream fish passage strategies. It is recognized that fish passage is crucial to sustaining wild salmon populations above dams in the Willamette Basin. The portable floating fish collector is currently in use at Cougar Dam. It allows for sorting, handling, and transportation of fish. There have been mixed results using this system, but it has been a valuable research and learning tool and will help inform the design of permanent facilities in the future. If water quality is good, survival is close to 100%. With temperature increases, mortality rates rise to approximately 10-20%. When too much debris enters the collection unit, mortality is close to 100%. This is the first time that this type of system has been tried in the Pacific Northwest in an area with such extreme elevation changes. Some of the main lessons learned have been that debris management is key and that better debris deflectors will be necessary to make a permanent facility more successful.
Various alternatives are still being considered for permanent downstream fish passage. These include: 1) Floating screen structure on or near the tower, 2) Structural/operational combination, and 3) Purely operational approach. The pros and cons of each option are being evaluated. A floating screen structure is currently the most likely scenario, but no decisions have been made.
Floating screen structures sometimes have low collection efficiency, but tend to have very high survival rates. Successful collectors tend to collect upwards of 75% of the fish, but these tend to be rare. Good facilities can have up to 98% survival rates. Using drawdowns as a passage technique can have a 99% survival rate if handled properly. A fish ladder is an unlikely scenario at Cougar Dam due to the fluctuation of water levels. It is possible that there would be some sort of volitional component in the downstream fish passage strategy, but a ladder would not be the likely strategy.
Funding is not fully secured. However, the USACE is working towards securing more funding. Total project cost being proposed covers 50 years and includes funding for operations and maintenance, as this can be a concern when budgeting for a project of this scale. A benefit of this project will be that once a system is established at Cougar it can be applied to other projects throughout the basin.

 

  1. General Public Comment Session

No public comments was given at this time.

 

  1. Approval of February 11th, 2016 Minutes

February minutes were reviewed by partners. A request was made to include the consensus procedures in the February minutes and will be added to the final minutes.

Council Partners approved minutes as amended with Mr. Hledik Showing Consensus Level 7 and all other Council Partners showing Consensus Level 3.

 

  1. Partner Announcements

Ms. Dietz made an announcement that the Army Corps of Engineers will be holding a meeting regarding the reallocation of water in the Willamette. The meeting will be at Springfield City Hall on March 16th. There will be two sessions from 3:00-5:00 pm and 6:00-8:00 pm. In response to Ms. Dietz’s announcement, Mr. Taylor explained that the Willamette Basin Review that was put on hold in 1999 has now come back, but with a narrower focus than in original study. More municipal interests have approached USACE about reallocation. It should be a good informational meeting to attend if you are interested in these issues.

 

Mr. Moll shared postcards for the McKenzie Memories event on April 1st at Venue 252. There should be seating for 450+ people. The presentation will focus on the acquisition of properties at Finn Rock, photos of the area, and stories from people who grew up in area. More information is available on the website.

 

Mr. Cox shared that the McKenzie School District is looking into the possibility of a Charter School. In recent years, the population in the area has decreased and demographics have changed. It is proposed that the school would have a focus on community sustainability focused on the river to create jobs in the area. They are in the beginning phases of planning, but want to have students doing more field work, and bringing in more art and tech classes.

 

Mr. Baker announced that the Director, Assistant Director and other McKenzie River Ranger District staff will be on site at the South Fork project for a field trip.

 

Mr. Mealey announced that the previous weekend, volunteers had helped remove trash and clean up homeless camps along the McKenzie across from IP. What was picked up was what was left from homeless camps that were built prior to recent high water events. About 20 people worked all day on the cleanup and filled a 20 yard dumpster. The sheriff’s work crew filled a dumpster of a similar size. Mr. Morgenstern is taking lead on thinking about how to prevent the camps from reoccurring.

 

  1. Staff Reports

Mr. Six presented a card to Loren Leighton as a thank you for his time on the Council. Mr. Leighton expressed interest in still volunteering with Salmon Watch after his retirement.

 

Mr. Weybright reported that is has been a busy month, and that planting for Phase 2 of the Berggren Project is nearing completion. About 24,000 plants have been put in the past few weeks. He is starting on project designs and contracting for Deer Creek, and finished livestock fencing at Cedar Creek. Ms. Weber and Mr. Weybright will present to BLM RAC on March 11th regarding Kelly Creek in the Mohawk area, in partnership with Mohawk HS. He is working with MRT staff on a volunteer event at Berggren on Saturday. For the South Fork Project, an 80% design report was submitted to OWEB for the area downstream from Cougar. Mr. Weybright is working with Forest Service staff to complete the design.

 

Mr. Demeter announced that a fundraiser will be held April 4-5 at Dickie Joe’s for Salmon Watch. Programs with Mohawk High School and McKenzie High School will be starting in April. Mr. Demeter also met with the Waldorf School. Students cleared close to ¼ acre of invasives. Still meeting with Coburg as well. June 1st the restoration Olympics will be held at Berggren. Coburg will be participating for the first time this year.

 

Ms. Weber is wrapping up on planting project planning for Springfield Wetland Collaborative Project. There is a planting plan for the full site area, not just the area where the weir will be installed. Website updates have been made. A draft of the action plan is now available and open to public comment on the website. Ms. Weber is working on an EPA grant application for environmental education which is due April 8th. On April 2nd from 9:30-1:00 a naturescaping workshop will be held in Leaburg. A follow up workshop focusing on continuation of site design for naturescaping projects will be held April 23rd from 9:30-1:00 in Leaburg. She is also working on data digitization for GIS.

 

Mr. Patterson asked if we would be discussing the draft action plan. He wanted to know how we assess the biggest threats to our water quality. Mr. Patterson talked to the DEQ about the plumes at International Paper and Weyerhaeuser and also about stormwater runoff. He wants to know where are the studies/criteria/analyses that show the biggest threats to water quality and how the Strategic Action Plan is taking that into consideration. Mr. Six responded that Mr. Morgenstern responded to this question previously and that EWEB has taken the lead for the actions and it is identified in the plan.

 

Mr. Patterson stated that he is bringing this up as a larger example of long term issues and he wants to know how threats to the watershed are being evaluated and how we know which threats are biggest and how they are being addressed. Mr. Six responded that the plan does address Springfield stormwater and EWEB drinking water and that it followed DEQ’s 2009 report in which development was identified as the biggest threat, followed by agriculture, and then forestry. The plan will be discussed more at the April meeting. Partners wanting to comment need to bring specific recommendations that should be made in writing and provide them to council staff prior to Council meetings so that the language can be incorporated and brought before the Council. Specific language will be needed if anyone wants changes to be made.

 

Mr. Perkins commented that he believes the current plan has enough flexibility to deal with big issues that arise and that the Council can deal with specific issues as they arise. He has full confidence that the group will deal with it as best they can.

 

Meeting adjourned.

 

 

Please follow and like us!