Wagner Creek Water Quality Improvement Project

When: Completed 2018
Where: Wagner Creek, a tributary of Bear Creek

Objective: A stream-side forest restoration project to improve water quality and increase native plant diversity

Before project implementation above; after implementation below

The Wagner Creek valley is a highly productive agricultural area that is rapidly being converted from orchards to small-acreage rural residential agriculture. Some management practices have produced conditions (narrow strips of native riparian vegetation, extensive areas of Himalayan blackberries, bare ground, manure concentration) that have reduced water quality and degraded fish habitat in Wagner Creek. Water quality limitations affecting native fish species such as steelhead and Coho Salmon include temperature, bacteria, nutrients, and dissolved oxygen. Oregon Department of Agriculture identified Wagner Creek watershed as a Strategic Implementation Area (SIA) for water quality concerns related to small-acreage agriculture and vineyards.

We worked on eight properties along Wagner Creek, including two that Oregon Department of Agriculture ranked as being of “significant concern.” We removed approximately 12 acres of blackberries along a 0.6-mile reach of Wagner Creek, employing a combination of mechanical, hand, and herbicide treatments. Disturbed areas were protected with quick-growing annual grasses. We planted approximately 9,000 native trees and shrubs and also installed around 700 willow stakes to stabilize steep banks. Fencing was also installed to keep livestock out of the creek.

Blackberry removal has allowed the native plantings to flourish. As these plants gain height, they will shade – and cool – the creek. Streambank erosion has been lessened due to the willow plantings and livestock exclusion. All of these measures will, over time, benefit the water quality of Wagner Creek, thus improving habitat for juvenile steelhead trout and other aquatic organisms.

This project would not have been possible without the funding and support from the following:

Oregon Department of Agriculture, Jackson SWCD, Patagonia Environmental Grants, Schwemm Family Foundation, Ashland Garden Club, City of Talent, Jackson Soil & Water Conservation District, Oregon Department of Agriculture, Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board, Patagonia Environmental Grants, private landowners, Schwemm Family Foundation