Rogue River Watershed Council uses monitoring information to:
- guide decisions about where we work
- decide on limiting factors to watershed health on which to concentrate
- measure the success of our activities
Currently, we monitor water quality parameters in Bear and Little Butte Creeks as they relate to a large-scale irrigation system improvement project (WISE), water temperature in a six-mile reach of Bear Creek, and juvenile fish movement out of the headwaters of Jones Creek (near Grants Pass).
We plan to develop a comprehensive monitoring program by the start of 2016 that will cover our territory and watershed health parameters more thoroughly.
Jones Creek Fish Population Monitoring
We all love the Rogue River, but did you know that some of our smaller, more inconspicuous streams play just as an important role in our fisheries, especially with regard to providing rearing and overwintering habitat for juvenile steelhead?
Jones Creek, east of Grants Pass, is one of these streams.
Once encumbered with various passage impediments, the stream now presents a barrier-free system (see Jones Creek Fish Passage under Instream Habitat Restoration) for upstream migration of spawning adults and both downstream and upstream migration of juvenile steelhead.
For the past ten summers, volunteers working with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife’s (ODFW) Salmon Trout Enhancement Program (STEP) have trapped, identified, and measured juvenile steelhead in upper West and East Jones Creek to monitor the population and their response to the streams’ barriers (or lack thereof). This effort takes place in late spring before the water temperatures rise and the water levels drop, that is, prior to juvenile outmigration.
In 2016, the Rogue River Watershed Council organized volunteer scheduling for the 66 survey days, as well as provided several shifts of volunteers for the trapping effort. In addition to Rogue River Watershed Council staff, board, and volunteers, participants included local fishing guides and volunteers from Southern Oregon Fly Fishers and Middle Rogue Steelheaders. This works aids ODFW in their efforts to monitor area stream conditions for our native fish.
Bear Creek Temperature Monitoring
Bear Creek is very warm for much of the late spring, summer, and early fall. So warm that young salmon that oversummer (steelhead and coho salmon) have a hard time spending time in much of the creek. Those fish in this watershed that are able to survive the hot summer months make it through by finding pockets of cool water.
During the summer of 2015, we are partnering with Middle Rogue Steelheaders, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, Rogue Valley Council of Governments, and The Freshwater Trust to survey water temperature conditions in 25 select locations in a five-mile reach of Bear Creek from Talent to Ashland. We placed thermographs at likely cool water locations (springs and seeps, tributary stream mouths, deep scour pools, and areas of likely groundwater upwelling. In fall of 2015, we will have information on how cool these locations are compared to nearby conditions in the creek to see if these spots offer young salmon protection from warm water.
In the summer of 2015, Rogue River Watershed Council is partnering with Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, Oregon Water Resources Department, Rogue Valley Council of Governments, and Jackson Soil and Water Conservation District to begin detailed monitoring of flow and water quality conditions in Bear and Little Butte Creeks.
The purpose of this monitoring is to establish baseline conditions before implementing a comprehensive improvement of the water conveyance and delivery system of three irrigation districts. This project is known as the Water for Irrigation, Streams, and the Economy (WISE).
The baseline monitoring information will help water and water quality managers assess the effectiveness of the WISE Project in meeting watershed health goals including returning the creeks to a more normal flow pattern, decreasing water temperature, decreasing nutrient concentrations, and reducing the amount of aquatic plant growth.