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Report Card Indicators

Water Quality 

Cyanbacteria

While not all algal blooms are harmful the occurrence of harmful algal blooms (HABs) is an indicator of an aquatic ecosystem out of balance. HABs occur during conditions of high temperatures, low stream flows, and high nutrient loads. Degraded stream side vegetation, and nutrient inputs  contribute to the occurrence of HABS. Cyanotoxins are indicative of an impaired aquatic ecosystem and pose threats to municipal and recreational water sources.

Turbidity

Bacteria

Temperature

Streams naturally become more turbid during heavy rains as high flows carry sediment into the water. However, excessive turbidity negatively impacts aquatic ecosystems and  degrades drinking water sources. Degraded and eroded stream banks and human activities such as logging, poorly designed road-stream crossings, polluted stormwater runoff, and poor agricultural practices can all potentially increase turbidity beyond the natural variation of a stream. 

The Rogue Basin supports internationally-valued salmon and trout populations. These fish require water temperatures between 8 - 15 degrees Celsius for optimal survival and reproduction. As temperatures rise, they are more susceptible to parasites and disease and spawning success declines.

There are many strains of E. coli and they occur naturally in lakes and streams. However, some forms of this bacteria can cause illness (which can be severe). High levels of E. coli in water is a strong indication of contamination from sewage (such as leaking septic systems) or animal waste. “Contact recreation,” such as wading or swimming, is strongly discouraged in water bodies with E. coli levels that exceed Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (ODEQ) standards.

Salmon & Steelhead

Abundance

Adult salmon and steelhead (among several other fishes) return to the Rogue River each year to make their spawning run. Large, adult fish swim, in some cases, over 150 miles from the mouth of the river to spawning. All of the salmon, and many of the steelhead, die after they spawn, providing food for numerous species of wildlife. As the carcasses decay, nutrients leach into the water and the soils along streambanks where they are taken up by streamside shrubs and trees. 

Habitat Accessability

Aside from their importance to the ecology of the Rogue and its tributaries, salmon and steelhead populations are important to the local economy. People from all over the country (and world) come to the Rogue River to fish for spring Chinook and summer steelhead every year.

Community

Air Quality

This indicator is a measure of the Air Quality Index (AQI) that converts ambient air pollutant concentrations into categories of health concern. Air quality fluctuations are often seasonal. Fire season (from June-October) can cause spikes in AQI levels and have negative impacts on air quality.

Affordable Housing

This indicator is a measure of the percentage of households in the Basin spending less than 30% of their income on housing. While affordable housing is also a national issue, it is also a local issue in the Rogue Basin as well, especially in the aftermath of the Almeda Fire and other Bear Creek fires that hit the urban center of the Basin the hardest, destroying hundreds of homes, many of which where middle to low-income families. Measuring affordable housing provides insight into community health.

Potential Future Indicators

Riparian Birds

Klamath Bird Observatory developed a riparian bird health indicator by collecting data in the Bear Creek watershed. We hope to expand this effort for a larger area of the Basin in future report cards.

Rural Capacity index

Recreation

Wildfire Risk

Headwaters Economics created a new Rural Capacity Index to help identify communities with limited capacity. These data are available for Rogue Basin counties and could be used to develop an indicator.

We explored this as an indicator, but were unable to come to a consensus on thresholds for grading and evidence of change over time. More exploration will continue for future report cards.

We explored measuring river use, hunting and fishing license sales, park pass sales, and the economic benefit of tourism for a potential indicators, but more data is needed.

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