Blue Sky Habitat Customers Helped Fix Oregon Rivers in 2015

Salmon after at Upper Sandy River

In 2015, Pacific Power awarded more than $120,000 to four on-the-ground restoration projects in Oregon through the Blue Sky Habitat Fund program, thanks to the support of thousands of customers across the state.

This Blue Sky Habitat Fund provides residential and small business customers the choice to not only purchase and support renewable energy but also help restore and preserve habitats for native fish in Oregon through an automatic $2.50 monthly donation. Once a year, watershed councils and nonprofits apply for a portion of the total funding. The Freshwater Trust, a nonprofit with more than 30 years of experience restoring freshwater ecosystems in Oregon, reviews the applications and evaluates them based on a key set of criteria. Priority is given to on-the-ground habitat restoration projects that provide a direct benefit to native anadromous fish -- many of which are listed as either threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act. Since 2011, more than 42 miles of restored stream can be attributed to the Blue Sky Habitat program.

In 2015, the largest award - $32,000 - was granted to the Geos Institute to aid in the removal of the Fielder and Wimer Dams on Evans Creek in Oregon’s Rogue River Basin. Both dams are abandoned irrigation projects and have fish ladders, but neither meets Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) or National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) fish passage criteria. The Luckiamute Watershed Council also received funding for restoration on Ash Creek, a tributary of the Willamette River. The Applegate Partnership & Watershed Council received a portion for restoration of Thompson Creek, a tributary of the Applegate River, and The Freshwater Trust received funding to advance their continued work in the Upper Sandy River Basin.

Several projects that began in 2014 with the help of Blue Sky funding were also completed this past year.  The Rogue Valley Council of Governments, along with the City of Medford and numerous other local partners, worked with public and private landowners to improve riparian and streambank conditions along Bear Creek in Jackson County. The project included the removal of invasive plants, installation and maintenance of native shrubs and trees and the incorporation of bioswales to treat urban runoff flowing through the newly planted streamside sites. The area became the focus of two SOLVE sponsored clean-up events. SOLVE is a nonprofit organization that brings together individuals, business groups, and service and conservation groups through volunteering and education to restore our natural spaces. It is also garnering interest for continued invasive control through other funding sources.

The Lone Pine Creek Riparian Restoration Project, launched in 2014, was also completed in 2015.  Located just outside Medford, Oregon, the project restored degraded riparian habitat along Lone Pine Creek by re-establishing native trees and shrubs.  Prior to restoration, the southwest side of Lone Pine Creek lacked any significant native vegetation, leaving little to no shade for the stream channel. Approximately 350 native trees and shrubs were planted to help reduce instream temperatures, promote the recruitment of future woody debris, provide beneficial nutrient input for aquatic species, improve stream bank stability, reduce channel degradation, and increase vegetative species diversity.  The planting was part of Lomakatsi's 7th Annual Streamside Forest Recovery Week, an event where hundreds of students from local schools participate in hands on restoration at various sites in the Rogue Valley.

The Freshwater Trust also made noteworthy progress this past year on the Upper Sandy River Basin Habitat Project. The project’s goal is to benefit federally-listed spring Chinook, coho and winter steelhead in the Sandy River basin by accelerating the recovery of naturally functioning conditions within the stream channels and floodplain areas of Salmon River and Still Creek. Major restoration actions completed in 2015 included the reactivation of flow to seven historic side channels, the construction of 48 large wood habitat structures, the restoration of two alcoves and one secondary channel, three boulder placements, the displacement of additional large wood in side channels and on stream margins, and  revegetation, which increased bank stability, shade and increased floodplain roughness.