The Deschutes Land Trust announced this week that central Oregon’s Whychus Creek has returned to Camp Polk Meadow.
Restoration crews redirected the full flow of the creek into its historic path through the meadow for the first time in 47 years, marking a major step in the return of salmon and steelhead to the upper Deschutes River basin, said the Land Trust.
Following more than a decade of planning and preparation, bulldozers gathered at the intersection of the old and newly restored channels and dumped 10,000 cubic yards of rocks, trees, and dirt into Whychus Creek. The flow was instantly redirected into the restored channel.
At the same time, biologists and teams of volunteers with buckets helped rescue all the fish left in the blocked channel and moved to their home in the new Whychus Creek, near Sisters.
“It’s incredible to see a project in which so many have worked patiently for so many years finally come to fruition. The Land Trust has worked toward this day for over 15 years, but we couldn’t have done it without our many partners, funders and volunteers. Together, we’ve created a slow, meandering new stream channel that can provide essential spawning and rearing habitat for the historic return of salmon and steelhead,” said Brad Chalfant, the Land Trust’s executive director.
The restoration of Whychus Creek through Camp Polk Meadow is a $2 million project designed to bring the creek back to its historic path through the meadow.
Goals of the project include restoring habitat for native fish and restoring the natural functions of the wet meadow for a variety of wildlife species.
Work began in 1997 when the Land Trust, in partnership with Portland General Electric, began negotiations to purchase the property with the vision of re-meandering the creek through the meadow to provide critical habitat for the eventual restoration of salmon and steelhead.
(For more information on restoring salmon and steelhead to the Upper Deschutes see CBB, Feb. 24, 2012, “Upper Deschutes Salmon Reintroduction Plan This Year Includes Moving Returning Spawners Above Dams” http://www.cbbulletin.com/417018.aspx)
Contractors carved a new, meandering channel through the meadow in 2009, followed by volunteers and crews planting more than 180,000 sedges, willows, dogwoods, and other native plants along the new channel.
The Whychus Creek restoration at Camp Polk Meadow Preserve is a joint effort between the Deschutes Land Trust, the Upper Deschutes Watershed Council and the Deschutes National Forest. Primary funders of the project include: Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board, Pelton Round Butte Fund (Portland General Electric & the Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs), Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Forest Foundation, Bella Vista Foundation, Laird Norton Family Foundation, Deschutes River Conservancy, Freshwater Trust, The Nature Conservancy and East Cascade Audubon Society.
For more information go to www.deschuteslandtrust.org