This February, in an effort to restore some of the highest-priority salmon and steelhead habitat in the Grande Ronde, Snake and Columbia River basins, Western Rivers Conservancy purchased a unique reach of Oregon’s Catherine Creek. Flowing 32 miles from the Wallowa Mountains to the Grande Ronde, Catherine Creek is particularly important for threatened spring Chinook, which spawn in the upper reaches of the creek, where we are focusing our efforts. The stream reach that passes through the 545-acre property also provides critical habitat for bull trout and summer steelhead.
Catherine Creek has been identified as one of the highest priorities for recovering threatened fish species within the Columbia River basin. Yet extensive restoration of the creek is difficult because much of it flows through private land. When this one-of-a-kind property came up for sale, we jumped at the opportunity.
Now that we own the parcel, we are working to convey it to the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, which received funding to restore the stream for the sake of imperiled fish. The Tribe plans to place large woody material in-stream, replant riparian zones, stabilize stream banks and restore deep pools, stream-meanders and side channels. The work will practically recreate the original stream along a reach that was rechanneled decades ago.
While Catherine Creek is a relatively small stream, its importance to the Grande Ronde, Snake and Columbia Rivers is enormous. Restoring this key reach will improve the overall health of the creek and improve odds for some of the most imperiled fish in the Columbia River basin.
From WRC's Riverlands newsletter