Protect and Restore Free Flowing Oregon Rivers

Jul 23, 2014

Your Support Makes Progress for Oregon's Rivers Possible

Your support protects and restores streamflows in Oregon's rivers, helps remove obsolete dams and secures balanced water polices for the state of Oregon. Need evidence of the impact of your donation? Read on.

Since our last report WaterWatch has the following accomplishments to report:

McKenzie River:  WaterWatch stopped an attempt to acquire 22 million gallons of water per day from the river at the expense of native fish in the McKenzie.

Malheur Lakes Basin: WaterWatch challenged Oregon's giveaway of groundwater that may affect lakes and springs  needed by migratory birds at Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. Why do we say "may affect"? Because Oregon lacks the data to know if the groundwater giveaway is sustainable or will injure surface waters in the refuge, yet continues to approve more groundwater rights in the area.

Klamath Basin: WaterWatch challenged the failure of the US Fish and Wildlife Service to complete by a statutory deadline comprehensive conservation plans at the National Wildlife Refuges in the Klamath Basin. WaterWatch also released a report that documents how these refuges, some of the most important in the nation for migratory birds, could receive water using existing water rights.

Rogue Basin: WaterWatch continued to pass milestones on the project to remove obsolete Wimer and Fielder Dams from Evans Creek and restore fish passage to up to 70 miles of high quality habitat for steelhead and salmon.

N. Fork Smith River: WaterWatch joined 17 groups in challenging a proposed nickel mining operation in the headwaters streams of the N. Fork Smith River.

Fish Passage Standards: WaterWatch participated in an Oregon Supreme Court victory that clarified requirements for fish passage at small dams across the state. Now, passage will be based on the biological needs of fish.

These are just a few of the accomplishments we can report from the past four months. Your support makes these types of accomplishments possible. Thank you for protecting and restoring Oregon's 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.


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


Apr 25, 2013

2013 Legislative Session Update

WaterWatch continues to advocate for Oregon Rivers through a variety of means, including advocacy, education, monitoring (esp. related to water rights), and, river restoration and efficiency projects.

With the Oregon Legislature in session WaterWatch is devoting considerable energy advocating for sensible, balanced water policies and fighting to defeat the most damaging bills. WaterWatch staff also participate in several legislative workgroups, including:

Oregon Solutions Project for Columbia River - this group has developed consensus options that should lead to additional water for Umatilla farmers that rely soleley on winter water; WaterWatch successfully staved off proposals to open up the Columbia for for withdrawls during low water seasons and secured the group's commitment that no legislation that undermines Columbia River Fisheries Laws will be introduced.

State Bonding Task Force - this group was convened by the Governor to create a new fund for water development and management projects using lottery backed funds and general obligation bonds for loans. WaterWatch is negotiating to secure requirements that projects developed through this fund would protect streamflows and rivers.

Oregon Conservation Network (OCN) - WaterWatch is a participating member and worked to get two bills adopted as priorities for the group - SB 659, a water right administration fee bill; and SB 401, a bill to designate additional scenic waterways across Oregon. The extensive expansion of proposed State Scenic Waterway designation emerged as a response to the proliferation of suction dredge mining on rivers, primarily in SW Oregon. 

In Conduit Hydropower - WaterWatch is attending meetings of this workgroup advocating to keep fish passage requirements on in conduit hydropower (i.e., not on a dam).

Check out our pressroom for more information:

Dec 21, 2012

Summer/Fall 2012 Updates

Here's a sampling of the projects WaterWatch has worked on this summer of 2012.

Water Use Accountability: WaterWatch launched a water use accountability project to increase compliance with existing water rights, protecting junior water use, restore river health and secure improved water management. In 2012, efforts have focused on locating funding, personnel, reconnaissance/scoping level fieldwork, GIS mapping and database preparation and equipment purchases. In addition, WaterWatch investigated certain John Day tributaries to evaluate water rights of record and began plotting these rights and points of diversion. Going forward, we are preparing to begin field work in the spring and summer of 2013

Water for Irrigation, Streams and the Economy Project (WISE): The WISE project has been named an Oregon Solutions project and received a grant of $243,000 from the Water Resources Department. WaterWatch is participating in this project with irrigation districts, local governments and conservation interests to set restoration priorities, identify opportunities to collaborate, and support projects where the Committee’s help can help further identified projects. This project affects Little Butte and Bear Creeks in the Rogue Basin. Now, the project is seeking funding to complete environmental impact analyses.

Clackamas River: A gem in Portland’s backyard! Oregon has proposed to allow 150 cfs of new municipal water withdrawals from the lower Clackamas via eight old, un- or underdeveloped permits. Oregon’s decision undermines a state law intended to protect the viability of imperiled fish species while allowing responsible municipal water development. Therefore, WaterWatch has challenged Oregon’s decisions to secure better protection for Clackamas River streamflows and imperiled fish. WaterWatch is involved in ongoing litigation in the matter, which is currently before the Oregon Court of Appeals. The matter is now fully briefed and awaiting oral argument.

McKenzie River: To protect the McKenzie, WaterWatch challenged a speculative attempt by a private entity to obtain entitlements to develop 34 cfs from the McKenzie. Oregon proposed to grant this entitlement despite an almost complete absence of water need, demand data, infrastructure or land use compatibility or permits. In May, WaterWatch won the first round of the case. An Administrative Law Judge agreed with WaterWatch and recommended against issuing this permit. This is an important victory. This result generated favorable media coverage and an interim hearing in the legislature.

Rogue River: WaterWatch continues to build on the momentum and success of the Free the Rogue Campaign by advancing the case for removal of other harmful and obsolete dams. WaterWatch is currently moving forward on three such dams in the Rogue Basin.

Crooked River: WaterWatch participated in negotiations with the two Oregon Senators, tribes, state and local governments, local irrigation districts and other conservation groups to determine the fate of unallocated water behind Bowman Dam. In August, the Senators introduced the Crooked River Collaborative Water Security Act (S. 3483) that provides significant improvements for fish and river habitat in the Crooked River while balancing the water needs of farmers, public utilities and cities. WaterWatch hopes to support passage of this bill in the next Congress.

Oregon’s Integrated Water Resources Strategy: After three years of negotiation, Oregon adopted its first Integrated Water Resources Strategy in August. Legislation secured by WaterWatch in 2009 directed Oregon to create a state water strategy. The Strategy addresses Oregon’s future instream and out of stream water needs and, if implemented correctly, will begin to address the nexus between water quantity and water quality across Oregon. Key instream components in the Strategy that resulted directly from WaterWatch’s involvement include direction to establish hundreds of new instream water rights (including protections for peak and ecological streamflows), establishment of new scenic waterways, increased measurement of water use, better water management and increased field and scientific services to better manage Oregon’s water resources. This represents a significant step forward for the state. Now, WaterWatch is supporting additional agency capacity to begin implementing the Strategy, including key instream elements to benefit Oregon's rivers.

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WaterWatch of Oregon

Portland, Oregon, United States

Project Leader

John DeVoe

Portland, Oregon United States

Where is this project located?

Map of Protect and Restore Free Flowing Oregon Rivers