WaterWatch of Oregon

Since 1985, WaterWatch has pursued a single clear mission: To protect and restore flows in Oregon rivers to sustain the native fish, wildlife, and the people who depend on healthy rivers.
Apr 9, 2014

Saving the World One Small Stream at a Time

You love big western rivers. Oregon has some of the best out there – the Deschutes, the John Day, the Rogue, the Umpqua. Your investment in WaterWatch protects and restores streamflows on many of these big iconic rivers for fish, wildlife and the people, like you, who care deeply about the health of these rivers. But, as you know, small streams are essential too. Small streams comprise most of the stream mileage in Oregon. Small streams provide critical habitat for the salmon and steelhead that spawn in tributaries and many other species of fish, birds, plants, and insects. Inland, these small streams can provide genetic reservoirs for bull trout, Lahontan cutthroat trout, and many other species. Smaller streams provide a gentle place to explore with children, a place to teach a young one to fish or to skip stones. Small streams have a beauty and delight all their own, perhaps not always as majestic as the lower Deschutes River or the Wild and Scenic Rogue – though Joseph Creek might beg to differ – but instead intimate and welcoming in scale. The charms of small streams can often be easily approached. These streams are important and they deserve our best efforts. You are saving the world one small stream at a time by supporting WaterWatch.

A sampling of the small stream success stories made possible by your investment in WaterWatch includes the following: In the John Day Basin, your support stopped dozens of ill-conceived dam projects on Thirtymile Creek, retired water rights in the Rock Creek area, and created tools that help restore streamflows on small streams across the basin. In the Umatilla Basin, on Mill Creek, a relatively pristine stronghold for bull trout, you protected higher flow events, secured water for streamflows in the dry summer months, and safeguarded the uppermost reaches by moving a large point of diversion for a city from the headwaters area to a location seventeen miles downstream. In the Rogue Basin, you helped notch a never-completed dam on Elk Creek and you are supporting projects to remove two of the worst fish passage barriers in Oregon on Evans Creek. This project will provide unimpeded access to 70 miles of high quality small stream habitat for migratory and resident fish. Your investment also protected and restored streamflows on Big Butte Creek and supports ongoing water conservation and efficiency projects that could help restore streamflows and water quality on Little Butte Creek. You made sure that the Little Applegate will always flow, even in times of drought, by supporting transactions to acquire the most senior water rights on the stream for instream use. You have also helped stop, to date, the degradation of Grave Creek by a large proposed mining project. Grave Creek marks the put-in for boaters on the world-famous whitewater run and federally-designated Wild section of the Wild and Scenic lower mainstem Rogue, as well as the eastern trailhead of the Lower Rogue River Trail. In the Deschutes Basin, your support has helped restore streamflows on Wychus Creek, Bear Creek, and Spring Creek, among others. In southeastern Oregon you have protected Home, Threemile, and Whitehorse Creeks from excessive water development. These streams are important for imperiled desert fish and other species. On the Oregon coast, you have supported projects that have protected and restored streamflows for Horn Creek, Drift Creek, and many, many small coastal streams through WaterWatch’s administrative challenges to damaging water development proposals and other work on coastal basin plans that affect water use from these streams.

Across Oregon, your support has resulted in hundreds of instream water rights on small streams. Many more instream water rights for small streams are now in the works. You made these extraordinary results possible. Yet, small streams across Oregon remain under attack from ongoing efforts to drain, dam, and otherwise degrade these critical waterways. The challenge of protecting and restoring small streams across Oregon is a good fight that’s worth winning. To paraphrase Thoreau and Aldo Leopold, “In the protection and restoration of small streams is the preservation of the world.” Thank you for your vision and support. Let’s continue to save the world one small stream at a time.

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Dec 19, 2013

2013 Greatest Hits and More

Fielder Dam Removal Project
Fielder Dam Removal Project

WaterWatch is grateful for the support provided by Globalgiving donors. Your generous donations have helped WaterWatch advance an aggressive restoration and protection agenda for streamflows, native fish and wildlife in ecologically significant watersheds across Oregon.

Recent conservation successes made possible with Globalgiving support include the following:

Recent victories that your support for WaterWatch helped make possible include:

  • Real progress towards a modernized Columbia River Treaty with Canada that addresses not only hydropower and flood control but also, for the first time, the health of the Columbia River. 
  • Breakthroughs in a decade-long stalemate to remove Fielder and Wimer Dams on Evans Creek in the Rogue Basin, two of the state’s top ten worst fish passage barriers.
  • Resurgent salmon, steelhead and cutthroat trout in the Rogue River due to the Free the Rogue Campaign dam removals.
  • New hope for streamflows and fish in the Crooked River in the Deschutes Basin below Bowman Dam as a result of new federal legislation.
  • Holding the line on excessive municipal water use at the expense of resident and migratory fish in the Clackamas, McKenzie, Chetco, Nestucca, and Row Rivers.    
  • New limits on damaging suction dredge mining and a revival of Oregon’s obligation to consider designating new river reaches for protection under Oregon’s Scenic Waterway Act.
  • Multiple new science and water management positions that begin to reverse years of legislative disinvestment at the Oregon Water Resources Department. 
  • The launch of a strategic water use monitoring and accountability program in the water-short John Day Basin.

Your support is essential to the continued protection and restoration of rivers and streams across Oregon. Your support helps create rational water policies for Oregon and the West. Oregon is one of the last best places. The issues around water are some of the critical environmental issues of our time. Thank you for your continued support

Wimer Dam Removal Project
Wimer Dam Removal Project
John Day Monitoring Project
John Day Monitoring Project
Protecting streamflows in the Chetco River
Protecting streamflows in the Chetco River

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Dec 19, 2013

Free the Rogue - Phase II

GHID Dam - Rogue River
GHID Dam - Rogue River

The Rogue River in Southern Oregon is one of the nation’s most beloved waterways.  The Rogue was one of the twelve original Wild and Scenic Rivers recognized by Congress in 1968. People travel from all over the world to float the wild Rogue’s wilderness whitewater reaches, to hike a popular wilderness trail along the river, and to fish for salmon, trout and other sport fish. 

The Rogue has historically been a very productive river for salmon and steelhead, producing the largest wild populations in Oregon outside the Columbia River system. WaterWatch's Free the Rogue Campaign has successfully removed four major dams in the basin - three on the mainstem of the river.

Now, we are addressing other dams in the basin that impair fish passage on the Rogue. One such dam is the Gold Hill Irrigation District (GHID) diversion dam. This dam constricts and delays fish passage and harms and kills salmon and steelhead on the Rogue. This low dam that spans most of the length of the river. At times, the diversion takes more than ten times the water allowed by the district’s water rights. There are many design flaws and shortcomings with the system that harm and kill migrating fish in the Rogue.

WaterWatch is now working collaboratively with the irrigation district to modify this dam and diversion to help fish and to return water to the Rogue. We have a design and are looking for funding to complete construction.  The cost of the project is estimated at $249,000. We are seeking funding to build this project.

The benefits of the project will be substantial, eliminating adverse impacts to migrating salmon and steelhead and other native fish caused by the existing system and leaving more water in the Rogue River. We are close to a solution for this dam. We need your help to make the project real.

Dead steelhead - GHID Diversion - Rogue River
Dead steelhead - GHID Diversion - Rogue River

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