This month, Western Rivers Conservancy purchased a reach of Oregon’s Catherine Creek, a critical salmon- and steelhead-bearing tributary of the Grande Ronde and Snake rivers. The stream reach that passes through the 545-acre property that WRC acquired holds some of the most important spawning and rearing habitat in the Columbia Basin—habitat with tremendous restoration potential.
The spring Chinook and summer steelhead that inhabit Catherine Creek belong to larger populations of Snake River Chinook and steelhead that are listed as Threatened under the Endangered Species Act. The populations in Catherine Creek are especially at-risk, and the creek has been identified as one of the highest priorities for fisheries restoration in the Snake and Columbia River basins. The stretch of Catherine Creek that flows through the property also holds bull trout, likewise listed as Threatened under the E.S.A.
It is rare for a Catherine Creek property of this size to come up for sale, and WRC jumped at the opportunity to play a role in restoring this critically important stream. WRC plans to convey the property to the Umatilla Tribe, which wants to restore side-channels and stream complexity to enhance spawning habitat and improve survival rates for over-wintering smolts. Once completed, the project will improve odds for some of the Pacific Northwest’s most imperiled fish and benefit the Columbia River fishery as a whole.
Photo: Catherine Creek, Dave Jensen.