WRC Blog

We Did It! Success on Catherine Creek

Nov 3rd, 2015  |  Written by Western Rivers Conservancy

We Did It! Success on Catherine Creek
Photo by Dave Jensen.

The Grande Ronde River is a jewel in northeastern Oregon. It flows 182 miles from the Blue Mountains across an expansive agricultural valley and through several large canyons before meeting the Snake River just below Hells Canyon. In addition to breathtaking scenery, the Grande Ronde boasts excellent float trips, popular big game hunting grounds and one of the most productive salmon and steelhead fisheries in the Snake River basin. One of its lifeline tributaries is Catherine Creek, one of the most important salmon and steelhead producing tributaries in the entire Snake River basin.

Two years ago, Western Rivers Conservancy set out to protect 2.5 miles of Catherine Creek in an effort to improve habitat for some of the most imperiled stocks of salmon and steelhead in the Columbia River system. Today, we’re thrilled to announce success.

WRC conveyed a 545-acre property on Catherine Creek to the Umatilla Tribe, who, as the new stewards of these lands, can now restore critical spawning and rearing habitat for spring Chinook and summer steelhead.

After its descent from the Wallowas, Catherine Creek passes through the small town of Union. Below Union, diversions greatly reduce its flow, making the creek above the town especially important for fish survival. That’s why WRC jumped on the chance to purchase the Catherine Creek property in February 2014.

The property includes both sides of the stream, a section that’s been identified as one of the highest priority streams for fisheries restoration in the entire Columbia River Basin, primarily for its importance to threatened spring Chinook. The section of creek is also high-priority habitat for bull trout and summer steelhead, which are both protected under the Endangered Species Act.

The Umatilla Tribe has received funding from the Bonneville Power Administration, under the Columbia River Accords, to restore side-channels and stream complexity. This will greatly enhance spawning habitat and improve survival rates for over-wintering smolts. As the new stewards of this incredibly important stream, the Umatilla Tribe can now focus on improving the odds for some of the Pacific Northwest’s most imperiled fish.

We at WRC thank you, and all our supporters, for making this important project happen.