It’s September in western Oregon and a helicopter whirrs overhead. A 32” diameter Douglas-Fir log is tethered from the helicopter’s underside with a heavy cable. On the ground below, a crew of workers are directing the swinging log’s placement into Rickreall Creek. But why all the effort to bring in helicopters to drop logs into a creek? Bounded on both sides by private and federal timber lands, this section of Rickreall Creek is part of a much bigger effort to improve water quality and recover the health and productivity of the entire Rickreall watershed.
Guest Author, Marlies Wierenga, WildEarth Guardians
Sipping my Pallet Jack IPA at Barley Brown’s brewery on an early September evening, I didn’t put much thought into the primary ingredient of the beer – water. Me and my fellow brewery companions just enjoyed our beers. Having won many awards, Barley Brown is known for its beer. Located in historic Baker City, Oregon – locals and travelers converge to raise pints and swap stories.
It wasn’t until the next day, when I began listening to Michelle Owen and Jake Jones from the City of Baker City and Robert Macon and Kelby Witherspoon from the U.S. Forest Service describe the drinking water watershed that the connection was made in my head. Seems silly given that I was in Baker City as a member of the Drinking Water Providers Partnership. The partnership was formed to help restore and protect the health of watersheds which communities depend upon for drinking water while also benefiting aquatic and riparian ecosystems. One way we achieve this is through an annual grant program. In late 2015 Baker City applied for, and received, a grant to help purchase and install fencing in their ongoing effort to protect their drinking water source area. It’d seem obvious that I would consider water while drinking beer, but like most people, I often take clean water (and good beer) for granted.
In its inaugural year, the Drinking Water Providers Partnership provided funding to eleven watershed restoration projects that will protect or restore drinking water quality and native fish habitat in the Pacific Northwest.
In November 2015 the Partnership issued its first request for proposals - the first of its kind offered by a public-private partnership specifically for watershed restoration that benefits both native fish and drinking water supplies in the Pacific Northwest. The Partnership received twenty applications from Oregon and Washington, adding up to $792,362 in requested funds and was able to help support eleven of these, all in Oregon.
Cathy runs the Working Waters Initiative of the Geos Institute from Portland, OR. She was recently interviewed by WeWork. Read the full interview here: In Oregon, a Commitment to Clean Water Shows What Happens ‘When We Invest in Nature’
Working Waters (my program) is really about making it easier for water managers to turn to nature whenever possible to meet our water quality and supply goals, instead of relying exclusively on concrete and chemicals. Nature is the original engineer; it’s very good at being able to produce reliable supplies of clean water.