Western Rivers Conservancy is about to set a new precedent for river conservation in Idaho. In the Sawtooth Valley, at the headwaters of the Salmon River, we recently purchased a property called Goat Falls Ranch. The ranch has key water rights on Goat and Meadow creeks, two critical headwater streams that once contained some of the best rearing habitat for Chinook salmon in the entire Columbia Basin.
This article ran in the November 1, 2017 edition of The Sacramento Bee.
By Jane Braxton Little, Freelance Writer
Before rushing to join the Klamath River, the waters of Blue Creek pause in a turquoise pool beside a bed of stone-gray cobbles. Salmon pause here, too – coho and fall Chinook, basking in the cool-water refuge to rally for the upstream swim to spawning grounds.
The journey up Blue Creek takes them past groves of redwoods and Douglas firs, over boulder-strewn cascades in a 4,000-foot climb to the misty Siskiyou Mountains. This ascent leads to what Yurok People call the “high country,” a hallowed place where they have gone for millennia to gather medicinal and ceremonial plants, and to commune with the sacred.
Ten years ago, Oregon’s Sandy River became wild and free once again!
In 2007, Portland General Electric blew Marmot Dam into a cloud of dust and rubble, dramatically initiating the decommissioning process that would allow the Sandy River to again flow unimpeded, from the glaciers of Mount Hood to the Columbia River.
In Idaho’s scenic Sawtooth Valley, Western Rivers Conservancy has successfully purchased the 364-acre Goat Falls Ranch, which controls crucial water rights on Goat and Meadow Creeks, two key tributary streams of the Salmon River. Historically, these streams contained some of the highest density Chinook salmon rearing habitat in the Salmon River system. Due to habitat degradation and low in-stream flows, the creeks now harbor only a fraction of the salmon and steelhead they once did. During the critical seasons of late summer and fall, when stream flows are already low and rearing juvenile Chinook are most susceptible, portions of both creeks are reduced to only a trickle, or dewatered entirely.
By acquiring riverland properties with associated water rights, WRC can have an even greater impact on river systems, especially when rivers are strained by summer heat, water withdrawals and low flows.