Oregon Plan for Salmon and Watersheds
The Oregon Plan for Salmon and Watersheds is a partnership of public agencies and private stake holders working to restore salmon runs, improve water quality, and achieve healthy watersheds and strong communities. The Oregon Plan was established by then-Governor John Kitzhaber and the Oregon Legislature in 1997 to respond to the listing of several salmon and steelhead species under the Endangered Species Act. Populations of salmon and steelhead have declined dramatically all over the Pacific Northwest to a small fraction of their historical levels. More information about this program is available from the Oregon Plan web site.
One of the key elements of the Oregon Plan that the DEQ Watershed Assessment Section has been very involved in is monitoring the health of streams and rivers important to salmon spawning and growth. We have been a close partner with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) in assessing the status of the water quality, biological condition and habitat quality of salmon streams in western Oregon. We have used a probabilistic monitoring approach where stream sample sites are randomly selected to provide an unbiased description of regional conditions similar to how public opinion polls are conducted. This monitoring is ongoing to determine if the quality of salmon habitat is improving under conservation and restoration efforts.
Our Oregon Plan monitoring work has changed over the years with shifting resources and priorities.
- Oregon Plan Western Oregon Assessment
For several years starting in 1998, DEQ and ODFW maintained an intensive, joint probabilistic stream monitoring program in western Oregon. DEQ surveyed approximately 70 stream sites per year for biological, water quality, habitat, and temperature conditions. In 2003 DEQ, ODFW and other state agencies published an assessment of the Oregon Coastal Coho that we submitted to the Governor, the Oregon Legislature and the National Marine Fisheries Service documenting what we had learned about the condition of Oregon Coast Coho populations and their habitat. Oregon Coast Coho stream habitat is the area from the mouth of the Columbia River south to Cape Blanco from our monitoring. The Coastal Coho Assessment is a large report that is available on the web. The entire report and DEQ’s portion of this assessment can be found on ODFW's Oregon Plan Reports web site. Due to reduced monitoring resources and shifting priorities this monitoring program has not been continued.
- Oregon Plan Lower Columbia Basin Wadeable Streams Assessment
In 2003 and 2004 DEQ conducted an assessment of the wadable streams of the Lower Columbia basin of Oregon. This area is from the mouth of the Columbia River in the west up to the Deschutes drainage in the east and up stream in the Willamette basin to Willamette Falls in Oregon City. It most closely corresponds to the Oregon portion of the Lower Columbia Coho spawning and rearing habitat, a species listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. We surveyed 54 randomly selected streams and 17 non-randomly selected reference streams for biological, chemical, physical habitat, and temperature conditions. A draft of this report has been finished and the final report on this monitoring work should be completed soon and available on this web site.
- Oregon Plan Willamette Basin Streams and Rivers Assessment
The Willamette basin is home to several almonds species that are listed under the Endangered Species Act or proposed for listing. It is also home to most of the human population of Oregon and the state’s largest metropolitan area. This monitoring project is a probabilistic survey of the water quality, habitat, temperature and biological condition of streams and rivers in the Willamette basin. We sampled approximately 50 stream segment in 2006. From earlier work in the Willamette basin by DEQ, other agencies and volunteer groups, there are data from more than 160 randomly selected streams that we may be able to use, although there are significant gaps in this data set. The work performed in 2006 focuses on urban and large rivers and should fill in some of these gaps making it possible for us to assess regional stream conditions for the entire basin, different types of land use, by ecoregion, and by major sub-basin. The data compilation and analysis for this report on this work is in progress.
- Oregon Coast Coho Streams Biological Health Assessment
Stream bottoms are habitat for a wide range of insects and other macroinvertebrates that are sensitive indicators of the overall ecological integrity and biological health of streams. Since we know which species of macroinvertebrates are sensitive or tolerant to warm water temperatures and high fine sediment levels we can use the macroinvertebrates to estimate temperature or sediment impairment.
Starting in 2006, the DEQ’s Watershed Assessment Section is working in cooperation with ODFW to collect approximately 160 macrorinvertebrate samples across 21 populations in Oregon Coast Coho habitat. DEQ provides training, equipment, logistic support, macroinvertebrate sample identification and data management. ODFW field crews conducting juvenile salmon surveys collect the samples. This cooperative DEQ/ODFW monitoring effort adds a great deal of value to an existing monitoring effort in a very cost effective way. Although this monitoring is funded by a two year grant it is expected to be continued into the future.
- Temperature Assessment in the Coastal Coho Habitat
Warm water temperatures are a major source of stress to cold water species like Coho salmon. Starting in 2006, ODFW stream survey crews deploy and recover approximately 20 continuous temperature monitoring data loggers a year in randomly in streams across the Oregon Coast Coho habitat. DEQ provided the field crew training, equipment, quality assurance checks, and data management for the project. Just like the macroinvertebrate sampling program describe above, this DEQ/ODFW cooperative monitoring is a very cost effective way to add a great deal of monitoring data value at a very low additional cost. Although this monitoring is funded by a two year grant it is expected to be continued into the future.