Proposal Title: Tracking Progress Towards Restoration Goals In the McKenzie River System

Principal Investigator: Dave Hulse (UO) (in collaboration with Stan Gregory-OSU)

The McKenzie River has always been a central part of Oregon’s ecological, economic, social, and cultural identity as a state. And even as intensive development in the lowlands has changed its nature, the McKenzie River system continues to provide crucial benefits to Oregonians. But, in important ways, the future will be unlike the past. Water quality and availability, as well as habitat for aquatic and riparian species, are threatened by dramatic population growth, the impacts of climate change, and massive shifts in demographics, agriculture, and uses of the river.

Yet remarkably, given the river system’s importance to how we all live, no single framework directs river management in the McKenzie watershed. Rather, conservation and restoration efforts are guided by a set of ecological priorities distilled from several respected sources and implemented by a loosely coupled network of NGOs and public agencies working at multiple spatial scales across the basin. These groups are supported by a partnership of public and private funders, university researchers, state and federal agencies, all aligned around the widely shared goals listed in bold above. These three components - shared restoration goals, an informal implementation network and coordinated “backbone” support - constitute an adaptable, collaborative restoration approach well suited to Oregon’s cultural and institutional landscape.

The shared restoration goals guiding river system management derive from a set of science-based plans designed to recover endangered salmon, safeguard drinking water, mitigate the impacts of flood management structures, and restore natural function to the McKenzie and other Willamette tributaries. The inter-connections of these goals were recently clarified for the public through creation by Meyer Memorial Trust of the Willamette River Report Card (http://ecoreportcard.org/report-cards/willamette-river/). These goals include:

This project extends a publicly accessible spatial template and corresponding database known as “SLICES” created jointly by the University of Oregon and Oregon State University. Extensive consultation has identified the minimum set of backbone information concerning floodplain forests and fish communities that must be consistently, regularly gathered about these river and floodplain qualities to know whether or not we are meeting the restoration goals above.

This effort extends the SLICES effort up the McKenzie River, one of three major salmon-bearing/municipal drinking water supply tributaries. As part of this work, we will populate these tributary SLICES with ca. 2015 information on fish communities (affiliated OSU effort by Stan Gregory) and floodplain forest extent in the McKenzie River floodplain (UO – this project).