Watershed Restoration and Enhancement
Our goal is to address the factors that limit watershed function in aquatic, riparian, and associated upland habitats for the purpose of increasing watershed health and resiliency.
Watershed restoration is a collaborative effort between numerous stakeholders including state and federal agencies, local contractors, universities, and countless private landowners. For example, a salmon habitat restoration project here on the Oregon coast involves multiple state and federal agencies (review, permits, grants), project managers from local conservation organizations, local contractors, and one or more landowners.
Effective restoration is dependent upon understanding the root cause of degradation to one or more of a watersheds functions or natural services. To understand what is affecting water quality, fish and wildlife populations, or changes in a plant or insect community, a scientific approach is needed. For a species like salmon, limiting factors analyses are employed to assess what factors in the freshwater (or estuarian) habitat are the key causes for decline. On the Oregon coast, many subwatershed-level limiting factors analyses have been completed. These analyses combine information gathered by snorkel surveys, culvert assessments, stream morphology measurements and adult spawning salmon counts to determine the most important functions of a watershed or stream reach to address (or restore) in order to protect and restore conditions that allow species, like Coastal Coho salmon, and other threatened salmonid species to thrive. For many salmon species, stream water temperature, and in-stream complexity (woody debris and side channels) are limiting their spawning and rearing productivity and success.
A key aspect of restoring habitat function and addressing limiting factors is alleviating the disturbance that is leading to degradation or loss of function. Sometimes this means removing or reducing the influences of a certain land use type (example: river bed mining, orchards or livestock right next to a river, nonnative fish stocking in a lake) but can also mean active construction and rehabilitation of a habitat feature (example: recreating a re-meandered channel on a channelized stream, adding natural components like wood to a river bed to naturally create complexity that benefits fish rearing, planting a riparian area with native trees and shrubs to create cooler stream water and more appropriate nutrient inputs that make the basis of a stream food web). Ironically, a functioning ecosystem is often degraded due a lack of natural localized disturbance such as flooding, landslides, or fire. Restoring natural disturbances is a very challenging and often controversial aspect of habitat restoration and often is not achievable or even desirable near human communities.
Who does this work in my area? Lincoln SWCD is a major collaborator and partner facilitating and implementing restoration on private property in Lincoln County. Contact our Watershed Restoration Program Staff about technical assistance and take a look at incentive programs that are available to landowners who want to implement restoration on their property.
The 2nd edition of Lincoln SWCD's Rural Living Handbook is also now available. We have compiled this handbook to address some of the issues rural landowners may encounter.