From October 1, 2019 through the end of April, rainfall in Medford was about nine inches, nearly 6.5 inches below normal. Sitting at around 60% of average, it seems that we are headed for a summer with all the familiar consequences of dry winters: relatively empty reservoirs, low stream flows, and dry forests.
This is bad news for salmon, steelhead, and trout, which depend on cold, clean water as well as those of us who depend on local streams, lakes and rivers for water supplies, irrigation, and a place to cool off on a warm summer day. High stream temperatures, bacteria levels, and diseases associated with unusually low summer stream flows will pose increasing problems for people, domestic animals, fish, and wildlife. And that is just “in the water.” Forests, meadows, wildlife, and people that use those “upland” landscapes suffer from low rainfall totals, too.
Good news! There are tried and true solutions (at least for rivers and creeks). Rogue River Watershed Council has been lining up and implementing restoration projects to make a difference for our waterways in seasons when winter rains and snowfalls are not abundant:
- Restoring high elevation streams (and their meadows) to increase contributions to shallow aquifers for later release;
- Increasing structure and habitat complexity in larger streams for water quality and fish and wildlife habitat needs;
- Encouraging a wide variety of native plant species to prosper in streamside forests to filter pollution, hold soil in place, and create a cool microclimate along streams; and
- Addressing fish passage barriers so fish can easily swim to temperature refuges.
And we are working hard to develop and implement these projects in the most important parts of our watershed despite the economic and philanthropic uncertainty in front of us.
Bad news. We expect our local donations to suffer this year because of the impacts of our collective and individual responses to Covid-19 and the impact of the “stay at home” and “group size” guidance on events like “Celebrate the Rogue!” (Planning, sponsorship and auction item solicitation, and ticket sales either have or will likely suffer or the event may be cancelled if there are concerns about gatherings into the fall). We expect agencies, foundations, and our local partners to tighten their purse strings with respect to funding, too. The result of this collective and understandable “belt tightening” means that it will be difficult for us to construct the great projects we have developed. The very sorts of projects that will help our watersheds withstand drought conditions like we are seeing this year (and have seen frequently in the past decade).
If healthy fish populations or clean water are important for you, your family, your hobbies, or your job, right now is a great time to invest in the Rogue River Watershed Council so that we can charge ahead with our plans, restoring streams and streamside areas to combat the impacts of drought … and severe storms … and decades of development.