McKenzie Watershed Restoration Priorities Summary
Willamette Basin Habitat Restoration Prioritization Process
The watershed/habitat restoration strategies/priorities that are at work in the McKenzie are outlined within the McKenzie River Conservation Strategy (developed by the McKenzie Watershed Council in 2002), and adhere to the following guidelines:
I) Protect and Restore Key Fish and Wildlife Habitats
River and stream channel habitats in the McKenzie have been lost through activities such as riverbank stabilization and changes to flood flows due to dams. River channel and tributary stream areas (especially side channels and backwaters) offer diverse aquatic habitats, refuge for fish and other aquatic species during floods, and important rearing areas for spring chinook salmon and other fish. Aquatic habitat restoration is focused on areas where human influences have caused the river to become simplified and on areas with complex and diverse habitats; especially river channel and tributary stream sections where the channel is (or historically was) actively moving and connected to the floodplain. Stream and river channel restoration approaches include the creation of side channels, pools, and other off-channel habitats, and placement of wood to create cover and pools.
Geographic Priority Areas: river channel segments within the McKenzie-Willamette Confluence area; lower river segments downstream from I-5 bridge; river channel segments along the north edge of the city of Springfield, river and tributary stream channel segments in the Walterville area, Camp Creek area, and Cedar Creek area; other historically complex lower river reaches such as between Hayden Bridge and Hendricks Bridge.
Project Types: Excavating upstream end of plugged side-channels to reconnect and restore flow to historic channels; excavating alcoves and ponds; remove dykes and riprap for stream habitat enhancement and channel and bank alteration (develop meanders and side-channels); streamside terracing and bank sloping to reduce sediment flow/erosion; large wood placement
Riparian and Floodplain Vegetation
Roads, houses, and other human developments concentrated next to the McKenzie River and its tributaries have contributed to significant loss of riparian vegetation; especially in the entire Lower McKenzie River corridor below Leaburg Lake (including tributary watersheds such as Camp Creek and the Mohawk). Protection of floodplain and riparian area habitat is focused on low elevation river and tributary stream areas that historically flooded at regular intervals and had extensive native riparian vegetation, especially large trees and other native plants. A key component of restoration is the removal/control of invasive plants such as Himalayan blackberry, reed canarygrass and scotch broom in riparian areas and the replanting of native site-appropriate vegetation. Stream margins with adequate native cover are critical for the earliest life stages of spring chinook salmon in particular.
Geographic Priority Areas: Within floodplain along the entire lower stretch of McKenzie River below Vida and down to the McKenzie-Willamette Confluence; the floodplain within the Camp Creek, Cedar Creek and Mohawk River watersheds.
Project types: Riparian restoration in collaboration with landowners on private lands: mowing/controlling invasive weeds; native tree/shrub planting; continued post-planting maintenance of planting sites; fence construction to protect riparian areas from livestock; off-stream watering system development for livestock
Note – Considerations for riparian enhancement project prioritization: project sites are considered higher priority relative to other projects as they affect longer contiguous stretches of habitat, along with available opportunities to impact both sides of the stream and achieve larger riparian zone widths (in proportion to stream size).
Wetland habitat protection and restoration are focused on reconnecting remaining areas with functioning wetlands. Historically, the Lower McKenzie Valley had extensive wetland habitats. In addition to providing valuable fish and wildlife habitat, wetlands in the McKenzie offer benefits such as absorbing flood flows, reducing erosion and storm damage, and maintaining water quality.
Geographic Priority Areas: wetlands in the McKenzie-Willamette Confluence area; wetlands in the lower Mohawk Valley near the city of Springfield; wetlands in the lower Cedar Creek drainage; wetlands in the Camp Creek area; wetlands in the Walterville area
Project Types: Wetland enhancement; Conservation of existing wetlands; Excavation & removal of fill; Elimination of drainage structures; pond construction; invasive species removal and native vegetation planting
Western Pond Turtle Habitat
Western pond turtle habitat restoration is focused on the areas where there are population strongholds and remnants of returning habitat, with an emphasis on McKenzie River floodplain areas. Pond Turtle populations are declining throughout Lower McKenzie Valley. Protection of ponds and other areas key for pond turtle habitat is critical to ensure future survival.
Geographic Priority Areas: McKenzie-Willamette Confluence area; lower Mohawk Valley; lower McKenzie floodplain along both the east and north edge of city of Springfield
Project Types: Riparian restoration (but with pond turtle habitat focus) in collaboration with landowners on private lands: mowing/controlling invasive weeds; native grass/shrub planting in coordination with Pond Turtle habitat needs; continued post-planting maintenance of planting sites; fence construction to protect pond turtle habitat areas from livestock; off-stream watering system development for livestock
Rare Upland Habitats
Rare upland habitat restoration is focused on conserving the little remaining oak woodlands, grasslands, and ponderosa pine areas, along with existing old growth conifer forests. Historically, the lower McKenzie River Valley, especially in the Springfield area and lower Mohawk and Camp Creek valleys, had extensive oak woodlands, ponderosa pine stands and grasslands. These vegetation types have been lost through conversion to other land uses and suppression of historical fire regimes.
Geographic Priority Areas: upland habitats near the edge of the city of Springfield; the Mohawk River Valley; Cedar Creek area; Camp Creek area; old growth forests of the upper McKenzie
Project types: Vegetation Management: reduce and control invasive plants; controlled burning; conifer thinning; planting and re-vegetation; reintroduction of native forbs; planting pine and oaks; protect/conserve old-growth conifer forests.
Restoring habitat connections within the McKenzie focuses on two areas: 1) barriers to fish and other aquatic species; with an emphasis on replacing barriers within streams (culverts, etc), especially those that are impediments to passage for federally listed species such as spring Chinook and Bull Trout, and 2) maintaining and reestablishing quality habitat between protected terrestrial areas, with focus placed on creating linkages between oak woodlands, grasslands, and ponderosa pine forests.
Geographic Priority Areas: Short term: main-stem of Lower McKenzie River below Leaburg Lake and down to the confluence of the McKenzie and Willamette; tributary streams in the lower McKenzie Valley and within uplands throughout the Mohawk River watershed; Long term: fish passage at dams
Project types: Identification and prioritization of passage barriers (barrier analysis and inventory: culvert removal, replacement or modification; fish passage structure development; correcting connection inhibiting road/stream crossings; screen diversions; dam/drop structure removal or modification, fish passage structure development; provide fish passage alternatives; invasive plant control and native plant establishment; protect established woodlands, prairies, and old growth conifer forests.
Note – Considerations for barrier removal project prioritization: The amount, type, and quality of habitat to be opened up is to be considered, as well as the position in the sub-watershed: with downstream positioned culverts being higher priority. Specific data is gathered on each potential barrier.
II) Protect, Maintain and Restore Water Quality and Quantity:
The majority of the McKenzie (with a few exceptions) is blessed with outstanding water quality and adequate in-stream flows. The McKenzie River is the source of drinking water for the city of Eugene. Maintaining and protecting this high water quality is a high priority; non-point source pollution will continue to be a threat, and continued and increased water quality monitoring will be crucial to learning of potential water quality problems as they occur and tracking water quality trends.
Geographic Priority Areas: Emphasis on Lower McKenzie River Valley and tributary streams, especially in the Springfield area and Mohawk watershed; along with Cedar Creek, Camp Creek, and Walterville area; additional focus to be placed on identified 303(d) limited stream segments (all primarily listed for temperature concerns) found within the Lower McKenzie and Mohawk watersheds
Project Types: Monitoring of temperature, DO, nutrients, bacteria, and heavy metals; riparian restoration practices such as invasive weed management/native tree planting and livestock-exclusion fencing; wetland enhancement
McKenzie Watershed Focal Species:
Aquatic Species: Spring Chinook, Rainbow Trout, Bull Trout, Cutthroat Trout, Mountain Whitefish, Three-spine stickleback.
Terrestrial Species: Western Pond Turtle
Avian Species: Total of 21 neo-tropical migrant bird species, 6 other migrant bird species, and 2 basin bird species; included are the Western Meadowlark, Willow Flycatcher, Yellow-breasted chat, and Osprey
Focal Plant Communities: Riparian Cottonwood Forests, Oak Woodlands, Wetlands
References of Note:
McKenzie River Subbasin Assessment 2000 McKenzie Watershed Council
McKenzie River Conservation Strategy 2002 McKenzie Watershed Council
Mohawk Watershed Assessment 1999 East Lane Soil and Water Conservation District