Wasco County Watershed Councils strive to continue their work towards restoring our watersheds while broadening partnerships through innovative projects and push the boundaries on tradition. The individual watershed councils all have unique strategies for engaging stakeholders, and the successful implementation of on the ground restoration.
Some projects stretch county-wide across multiple watersheds, while others are a specific focus to each council, based on the immediate call for action to restore a community need or enhance threatened habitat for any aquatic or upland species.
For more information on past projects, presentations and reports visit the archives link at the bottom of each individual council page.
Water quality programs are a main focus in our watersheds, that the councils have been involved with for over 10 years. The Pesticide Stewardship Partnership (PSP) program entered its 12th consecutive year of monitoring in 2022. PSP is a program that monitors for the presence of current use pesticides and their breakdown products in surface waters as a result of pesticide drift and runoff. The goal of the program is to identify streams with elevated pesticide concentrations or a high number of pesticide detections, then collaborate with nearby landowners and agencies to implement voluntary management practices to reduce pesticide drift and runoff. The PSP program is conducted in both The Dalles and Fifteenmile Watersheds. The Dalles Watershed Council has placed a heavy priority upon E.coli monitoring within the watershed with the Mill Creek E.coli sampling program wrapping up its 13th consecutive year in 2022. In 2019 the councils set a goal for the season to find the source of the e.coli contamination within Skyline Tributary, a small tributary of Mill Creek with consistently high levels of E.coli. In an attempt to determine if high E.coli levels could possibly be explained by human contamination. Water samples were taken in the fall within the tributary and tested for the presence of caffeine. The caffeine tests determined that caffeine was not present within the samples provided, failing to provide evidence of human contamination with the tributary. In 2021-2022 the councils collaborated with the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) to produce a report that attempts to analyze all of the potential inputs for contamination within the Mill Creek subwatershed. DEQ has reached out to numerous stakeholders that collect data within Mill Creek to compile as much water quality data as possible, and will use that data to begin working on the report. The Dalles Wateshed Council hopes to use information learned from that report to continue decreasing E.coli concentrations within Mill Creek.
The Mosier Watershed Council has been working on improving the condition of the aquifers within the Mosier area for many years. In 2021, the council successfully lobbied congress in order to secure $900,000 in funding to continue repairing commingling wells within the Mosier Watershed. The money will be used to continue right where Mosier Million #1 left off and help continue to repair commingling wells that exacerbate groundwater drawdown. In addition to this, the council monitors groundwater levels within the watershed with monitoring efforts being undertaken by Oregon Water Resources Department (OWRD). Working in tandem to improve groundwater declines in Mosier is the continuation of the Deep Well Project. The first deep well was completed in 2019. Drilling on the second Mosier deep well started in 2020 and was completed Summer of 2022. Funding for the deep well projects was secured through collaboration with the SWCD and willing landowners who have committed hundreds of thousands of dollars to sustaining Mosier's water supply. The goal of the deep well projects is taking two of the largest water users off of the current aquifer system, and drilling down to projected depths of 1,500 feet into the Grande Ronde aquifer and is expected to supply 350 gallons a minute.
15mile Managed Underground Storage
The Fifteenmile Watershed includes lands drained by Fifteenmile Creek, which discharges into the Columbia River downstream of The Dalles Dam. Fifteenmile Creek flows through the town of Dufur, located 15 miles south of The Dalles. The Fifteenmile watershed is home to federally-listed (threatened) wild Mid-Columbia steelhead, a culturally-significant population of Pacific Lamprey, other native fish species, and a vibrant farm community. This project location is approximately 6 miles upstream from Dufur, near river mile (RM) 35. Surface flows in Fifteenmile Creek are over-allocated in the summer months, and the Watermaster regulates off junior water right holders to protect senior users during the irrigation season. Low streamflow and associated high temperatures have been identified as primary limiting factors for viable fish populations. Summer low-flow temperatures in reaches of Fifteenmile Creek often exceed temperature thresholds for salmon and trout rearing, migration and spawning. Subsurface storage of cool water has been identified through previous studies as a feasible approach to enhance summer streamflows, and improve temperature conditions for migration and rearing. The concept is to divert and treat cool water from Fifteenmile Creek during higher flow winter/spring months, store it in a deep, confined aquifer in the Columbia River Basalt Group (CRBG) and return the water during low flow periods. The first phase of this project is to permit and construct a small-scale infiltration basin for pilot testing. The results of the pilot testing will be used to verify and refine the design parameters for a full-scale diversion and treatment system to produce a source water quality that meets standards for injection and storage. Project partners include the Wasco County SWCD, Fifteenmile Watershed Councils, Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA), Oregon Water Resources Department (OWRD), and Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW).
Bakeoven Watershed Uplands Restoration
The Bakeoven Watershed Uplands Enhancement project takes place in South Wasco County, on private land between the Deschutes River south of Maupin to Buck Hollow Creek along the Wasco and Sherman County Boundary. In 2016, the Bakeoven Watershed Council was awarded Technical Assistance funding from OWEB to inventory and assess the state of upland conditions in the Bakeoven Watershed on private lands, as the basis for a Resource Management Plan that was used to prioritize restoration projects. The inventory assessment identified and prioritized management changes and projects for funding that helped with the development of an Resource Management System (RMS) Conservation Plan, using NRCS methodology. The assessments that were conducted encompassed approximately 95,000 acres of uplands at 31 locations on 9 ranches. The inventory assessment documented how the ecosystem is functioning, and the need for action. The results of the TA grant identified 16 proposed practices that are anticipated to result in qualitative and quantitative improvements to rangeland plant communities, forage values, and wildlife habitat in the uplands. The 12 NRCS practices to be implemented through this restoration grant are: Juniper Removal, Herbaceous Weed Control, Prescribed Grazing, Fencing, Upland Wildlife Habitat Management, Brush Management, Livestock Pipelines, Pumping Plants, Range Planting, Spring Developments, Watering Facilities and Solar Water Wells. If successful, this project will start in the Winter of 2022. The Wasco County SWCD is also working with NRCS to implement a CIS in the South part of Wasco County that will combine efforts for range and upland improvements.
Fish monitoring is taking place within The Dalles and Fifteenmile Watersheds led by ODFW in partnership with the local watershed councils and Wasco County SWCD.
In The Dalles watershed ODFW is working to gather and provide status and trend monitoring of three anadromous salmonid populations (ESA listed steelhead, Coho salmon, and coastal cutthroat trout) present in three stream within the watershed: Mill Creek (located in Wasco & Hood River Counties), Threemile Creek and Chenoweth Creek (located in Wasco County). All three creeks flow into the Columbia River through the boundaries of the City of The Dalles. Baseline anadromous salmonid productivity and life history in the three creeks has not been established. Baseline data for salmonid production in the three creeks will provide a reference for evaluating the fish response to basin-wide efforts to improve the Mill Creek watershed and to restore riparian habitat. Monitoring will take place for a period of four consecutive brood years to establish a baseline. Deliverable metrics provided by ODFW for the adnadromous salmonids include: annual migration year smolt abundance estimates, age structure, migration timing; and brood year smolt production estimates, smolt-adult return to Bonneville Dam & Mill Creek, and adult return timing to Bonneville Dam & Mill Creek.
As with The Dalles watershed fish monitoring project, ODFW is working to gather and provide status and trend monitoring of three anadromous salmonid populations (ESA listed Mid-Columbia steelhead, coho salmon, and coastal cutthroate trout) present in Ffittenmile Creek and associated tributaries located within the Fifteenmile Creek watershed. Fifteenmile Creek flows into the Columbia River immediately downstream of The Dalles Dam on the Columbia River. Anadromous salmonid productivity and life history data for salmonid fish populations were established through monitoring studies from 2006-2019. However, these studies have since ceased, and status and trend data necessary for adaptive managment, including evaluations of riparian and habitat improvements are now lacking. Status and trend data are fundamental and necessary data used to evaluate habitat, waterhsed enhancement, or ongoing projects. This is a continued effort to recover ESA listed Mid-Columbia Steelhead, for which Fifteenmile Creek steelhead have been designated as "must have viable" in the NOAA Fisheries Biological Opinion. Monitoring the production and life history of salmonids in Fifteenmile Creek will be conducted by providing smolt abundance and escapement estimates to the Fifteenmile Creek Waterhsed for a period of four consecutive brood years. The baseline status and trend date will includ brood years 2022-2026; and were selected to compliment and continue collecting baseline production metrics for Fifteenmile Creek Steelhead. ODFW will provide technical assistance in estimating anadromous fish production during these consecutive brood years. Deliverable metrics will include: annual smolt abundance, age structure, migration timing, smolt-adult return estimates to Bonneville Dam & Fifteenmile Creek, overshoot rates and adult return timing to Bonneville Dam & Fifteenmile Creek.