Costs of clearcutting?

dwheeler at dwheeler at
Wed Oct 7 10:23:46 EST 1998

The following appeared in The Oregonian, Oct. 6, 1998 pB7

Umatilla Basin creek goes with new flow for restoration's sake

The idea behind digging a new channel for Birch Creek is to undo damage from
logging and from a 1960s project that straightened it

Correspondent, The Oregonian

	PILOT ROCK -- In what could become a showcase project for stream
restoration, federal and state officials are digging a brand-new, improved
channel for Birch Creek in northeastern Oregon.     "The techniques being
used here are techniques we want to see being used region-wide," said Anthony
R. Morrel, 52, environmental services manager for the Bonneville Power
Administration. "This is aggressive fish habitat restoration."	     Morrell
said Birch Creek produces one-third of the wild summer steelhead in the
Umatilla Basin of northeastern Oregon.	The creek is expected to be turned
into a new channel in about two weeks, and cottonwood, willow and dogwood
will be planted along the new shorline, he said.   The creek originates in
the Blue Mountains and enters the Umatilla River near Pendleton. But its
health has been bruised in recent decades by intensive logging in its
upstream watershed, and by a stream channelization project of the 1960s that
straightened it and eliminated the meanders that provide habitat for fish. 
Morrell said clear-cut area upstream hold snow poorly and spring runoff
begins two to four weeks earlier than it once did. The existing channel has
been ravaged by six major floods in 10 years.	    Bonneville Power has
spend $2.5 million during the past 10 years in an unsuccessful attempt to
restore health to Birch Creek, Morrell said. The mile- long stream channel
rebuilding project is costing about $200,000, and a nearly identical project
along five more miles of the creek is being considered.  Rebuilding the first
segment of Birch Creek has lengthened it to 1.5 miles by establishing
meanders reinforced by rocks and 140 to 160 tree rootwads, Morrell said. That
increased length will significantly increase spawning habitat, he said.      
 The work also was designed to provide "high-flow chutes" to move water
rapidly through the system during times of high water, said Christian
Fromuth, 36, designer of the new system.   The one-mile segment of creek is
privately owned by the heirs of John Houser, whose grandparents homesteaded
there. Restoration of the other five miles of Birch Creek will require the
go-ahead from about 11 private landowners.	"We are trying to create a
stable channel system that works for homeowners and wildlife," said Fromuth,
a specialist in stream design for Agua Tierra Environmental Consultants of
Olympia. "We're not attempting to restore pre- settlement conditions. There
is compromise written all over this."	 Fromuth's design is based on
educated guesses about what the channel would look like in the absence of
human intervention, said Troy Laws, 36, fish habitat biologist for the Oregon
Department of Fish and Wildlife.   "We have beaver in here, and a lot of what
we are doing in here mimics beaver," he said.	     Laws said the stream
channelization work of the 1960s was undertaken to prevent flooding by moving
water through the canyon rapidly. The snag was that the creek eroded a deep,
narrow channel, causing a drop in the surrounding water table and making the
nearby land less valuable for grazing and hay production.  Then, during high
water, the deep, narrow channel would frequently become plugged by debris and
gravel and flood the agricultural land, he said. The restoration project is
expected to sharply reduce flood damage and future restoration costs, he

Posted as a courtesy by:
Daniel B. Wheeler

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