What contributes to a healthy watershed for the south coast?

No two watersheds are exactly the same. Every watershed has a unique set of factors (geology, hydrology, landscape types, land use, etc.) that contribute to how it functions. That being said, there are a number of things that all the watersheds on the south coast can benefit from, many of which are the drivers for the types of projects the Curry Watersheds Partnership implements. A few examples of those important factors are:

Many native species in our area move throughout watersheds during multiple phases of their lives. Sometimes past human actions can restrict that access, such as damming a stream and not providing fish access, or if a culvert under a road that is too small or steep to allow fish to pass through. We work to identify these potential barriers and fix as many of them as we can.

Estuaries, where the river meets the sea, are a small portion of the overall area of a watershed but they have a big impact on watershed health. See our past Curry Currents edition on estuaries for more info! We carry out projects to both better understand, and enhance our estuaries and the important habitats found in them.
A healthy riparian area is vital to the health of a stream. See our past Curry Currents edition on riparian areas for more info! Logs and trees and other vegetation that falls into a stream provide both habitat and nutrients for a large number of aquatic species. So while these areas may look messy and unattractive, know that they are a welcomed sight from a fish’s perspective. Many of our projects involve planting and maintaining riparian areas, and sometimes even installing large logs in the stream both to help stabilize a stream in some situations and also to provide a foundation for that “messy” habitat.
There are many different parts of a river system that make up the whole, and each one serves a different purpose and has importance to the system. Aside from the main channel in a stream, other things like side-channels, ponded backwater areas, and wetlands provide habitat and nutrients for aquatic species, help improve water quality, and prevent flooding. We work in a number of watersheds to help enhance these habitat types to make sure all the parts of the watershed are as healthy as they can be.
Our community on the southern Oregon coast is directly and indirectly affected by our watersheds in many different ways. These rivers provide drinking water to people’s homes, recreational opportunities, and drive important pillars of our economy through fishing and tourism. This relationship goes both ways. The more we work within the bounds of what is attainable and sustainable without sacrificing the health of our watersheds, the healthier our community will be. That’s why we thank everyone who has had a helping hand over the years in us achieving our goals, and those who put value in the health of our watersheds.

In-Stream Restoration

Fisheries scientists in the 1980s began to recognize that stream habitat had been simplified by past land use activities. Particularly those systems that had intensively logged watersheds seemed to be dominated by riffles with low pool frequency and lacked complexity. The range of stream restoration problems are diverse, and one restoration technique does not fix all issues. Often, a mix of stream treatments is needed.

Instream projects can help to improve streams by adding structures that mimic nature. Large wood structures can add complexity to the stream channel, provide shelter for juvenile and adult salmonids, reduce water temperatures, and help to prevent stream bank erosion. For example, if a creek has a heavily entrenched streambed, then it has little access to the floodplain (and slow water) during the winter. By adding large wood to the system, you can start to build back up the stream bed and create better connections. These large wood pieces capture smaller pieces of wood and gravel that come into the stream. The gravel can help to raise the channel up, providing better floodplain access and slowing the flow, creating sheltered habitat for salmonids.

The species that depend upon these ecosystems for their survival have, over millennia, evolved in response to the full range of flows and their interannual variability. Each species has developed life history traits that take advantage of specific flow levels, as well as the timing, duration, frequency, and rate of change of flow. In addition, flows that sustain healthy river, floodplain, and estuarine ecosystems also provide a wide range of ecosystem services that benefit people: 

  • provision of water and food supplies
  • water purification and treatment
  • flood mitigation
  • soil fertility maintenance
  • maintenance of coastal salinity zones
  • provision of beauty and life-fulfilling values
  • recreational opportunities

Riparian Restoration

Healthy watersheds depend on streamside vegetation to filter pollutants, shade the water keeping it cool, and to prevent erosion. This vegetation buffer along rivers and streams is called the Riparian Zone. Riparian vegetation supplies many ecological services to the fauna, including people, living within the watershed.
  • Food
  • Shelter
  • Shade
  • Large Wood Recruitment
  • Runoff Filtering
  • Soil Stabilization
  • Clean Water

The Curry Watersheds Partnership has been involved in riparian restoration projects since 1990’s. Many of the riparian areas in Curry County have been severely impacted by various land uses including timber harvest, agriculture, and urban development. Over time as the riparian area is encroached on and vegetation is removed stream channels begin to erode and simplify (which often leads to ditching by landowners). This is state of many of the small creeks on the southern Oregon Coast. 

Numerous programs exist to assist landowners with resource concerns. See below for the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board’s Small Grant Program and the Natural Resource Conservation Service Programs.

Off-stream watering, fencing, gully stabilization, sediment abatement, stream restoration, and riparian enhancement are some examples of the types of projects where the District can offer services.

For Riparian work – Contact Drew Harper

Small Grant Program

The OWEB Small Grant Program awards grants up to $15,000 for on the ground watershed enhancement projects on the South Coast. The Small Grant payee must be the Curry Soil and Water Conservation District, but this entity can act on behalf of private landowners, not-for-profit institutions, schools, community colleges, state institutions of higher education, independent not-for-profit institutions of higher education, tribes, watershed councils, and local, state, or federal agencies.

The application deadlines for 2021-23 are listed in the bylaws.

Next Application Window Open: August -14, 2022

For more information on the small grant program, you can explore the sites/pages below:

For more information about the program, please contact Miranda Gray, miranda.gray@currywatersheds.org or 541-373-3127

Natural Resource Conservation Service Programs

Natural Resources Conservation Service’s (NRCS) Environmental Quality Incentive Program (EQIP) provides strategic technical and financial assistance for resource protection. Current strategies include forest health and Sudden Oak Death treatment assistance, and a new 2022 surface water quality protection strategy will promote healthy pasture cover and riparian buffers in selected watersheds.

The NRCS Oregon home page describes programs, Farm Bill, and Service Center locations.  Click on an interactive map that shows active EQIP opportunities.

Farm Service Agency’s cooperative Oregon Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) provides technical and financial support for restoring and protecting riparian buffers adjacent to agricultural ground. 

2021 CREP Fact Sheet

For more information about the Oregon Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program in Coos and Curry Counties, contact the USDA Service Center at 382 North Central Blvd. Coquille, OR 97423.

541-396-2841. Select Option 2 for Farm Service Agency or Option 5 for the Curry SWCD CREP Technician (Barbara Grant).