It was nearly impossible to have a conversation over the noise of the bulldozers, excavators and dump trucks. Earlier this month on Green Island, where the Willamette and McKenzie Rivers come together, over twelve thousand cubic yards of soil were being transported.
The McKenzie River Trust acquired 865 acres of Green Island in 2003, recognizing that such extensive acreage, river channels, and off-channel areas provided tremendous opportunities to implement conservation strategies that had been developed by many partner organizations working in the Upper Willamette Basin.
As MRT and our partners have gotten to know the area better over the last 14 years of management and restoration efforts, the foresight of that initial acquisition and subsequent additions to the property has become increasingly apparent. The Green Island project, presently about 1,100 acres in size, gives us the chance to move beyond talking, and walk the talk of large-scale floodplain restoration.
Transforming a pond, restoring a river
With the support of the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board, Bonneville Power Administration, and a Pacific General Electric Habitat Support grant administered through The Nature Conservancy, we took one more step this summer to increase river-floodplain hydrologic connection and improve habitat quality.
Contractors used heavy equipment to remove a 350 foot by 150 foot levee, originally constructed to make the land more suitable to farming. An existing pond wall was opened, transforming the pond into an alcove that should connect to the floodplain in high water, spreading the river over about 3 acres that was previously inaccessible.
The next step will be to stabilize the site with native grass seedlings. Later this winter, we’ll plant cottonwoods and willows to restore the site.
As the noise of the bulldozers fade, and the calls of birds can be heard again, a conversation will continue: a conversation between the land and the rivers that cradle it.
Restoration of the former Coburg Aggregate gravel pits on Green Island is all about working with the water we have.
If you ask Chris Vogel, the $1 million restoration project happening this summer on Green Island is all about flushing.
“We’ll be working with the same amount of water we used to get on site,” says Chris, who has been Green Island‘s restoration Project Manager for six years. “It’s just where it goes and how and how long it stays that’s different.”
Flushing is simple: in a healthy river system, you’ve got water in, and water out. When a side channel fills up and then empties out, at least a couple times a year during high water events, the river flushes any ponded water and the critters living in it down the channel. In a natural area, this flushing provides a huge range of benefits for fish and wildlife.
The CARP site is in an active side channel of the Willamette River. We call this area the historic McKenzie River channel, because the main channel of the McKenzie River flowed right through here before the big 1964 floods which moved the McKenzie-Willamette confluence to where it is today, just south of Green Island. The channel has water year round, even more in the winter.
But it’s far from a natural area.
An altered landscape
CARP stands for Coburg Aggregate Reclamation Project. Until the McKenzie River Trust purchased this 56-acre parcel in 2010, the site was mined for sand and gravel. And that created steep gravel pits with few places for native plants to take hold.
“Before restoration, when that historic McKenzie River channel filled up, it would overtop into the pits. Lots of fish – both native and non-native – would get trapped until the next high flow,” says Chris.
In other words: no flushing.
The fish didn’t have a way to escape back into the channel as the water dropped. So, stranded, the fish lived their lives in the pits. “More frequent flushing will get them out,” says Chris.
The solution is to use heavy construction equipment to grade the slopes to a more natural rise of one foot up for every ten feet out. And that’s exactly what we did this summer at CARP, hiring the Wildish Construction Company to move 125,000 cubic yards of gravel to create those slopes and the right entry and exit points for the ponds to be much friendlier to native Willamette spring Chinook salmon, Oregon chub, and other fish and wildlife.
This winter, we’ll plant thousands of willows and other native trees and shrubs along the pond edges. As the plants grow up, they’ll offer fish plenty of places to hide from predators.
The next time the water rises, we’ll see on the ground how all this work makes a difference for salmon.
“We’re always looking for ways to give life to the river,” says Joe Moll, Executive Director of MRT. “This is one of the best investments we can make to do that.”
The Bonneville Power Administration, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board, and Meyer Memorial Trust’s Willamette Special Investment Partnership provided funding for CARP restoration. Additional funds were provided by The Nature Conservancy Portland General Electric Habitat Support program, and individual donors like you.
Contact: Liz Lawrence
Director of Resources
McKenzie River Trust Hosts Living River Event
Celebrating Green Island Conservation
EUGENE, Ore. (June 19, 2014) – On Saturday, June 28, from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., the McKenzie River Trust will celebrate 11 years of land and water conservation on Green Island with a free and family-friendly event. The McKenzie River Trust invites families, friends, and nature lovers to enjoy the conserved land and water at the Living River Celebration.
Visitors will enjoy birdsong and live music, freshwater and cold beverages, all while exploring 1,100 acres of rolling floodplain that grow wilder by the day. Activities include tree climbing, guided tours, birding, picnicking, self-guided walks and runs, canoeing, Ninkasi beer, a musical performance by guitarist Don Latarski, and more than a dozen booths from local conservation organizations. New this year, writers and others will offer walking tours and free workshops for nature lovers to get in tune with their senses and better appreciate the land.
Green Island is located west of Coburg, Oregon where the Willamette and McKenzie Rivers come together. Green Island is just a 15-minute drive from downtown Eugene or Springfield. Parking on the property is limited, so carpooling is encouraged.
About the McKenzie River Trust
The McKenzie River Trust is a nonprofit land trust that was formed in 1989 to conserve and care for special lands and the rivers that flow through them in western Oregon. For 25 years, McKenzie River Trust has worked with landowners and diverse partnerships to protect, forever, nearly 4,000 acres of special lands in western Oregon. The McKenzie River Trust is committed to a future in which intact, functioning ecosystems provide clean water, abundant fish and wildlife, and productive natural landscapes throughout western Oregon. To learn more about McKenzie River Trust, visit mckenzieriver.org.
About the Living River events
The Living River event, now in its sixth year, is the McKenzie River Trust’s annual event to connect our community to the unique landscapes that surround us in Oregon – where we all live, work, and play. Living River events benefit the McKenzie River Trust’s mission. Last year’s Living River Celebration was the first to be held on Green Island. Over 800 people joined us to walk, bird, paddle, climb, picnic, and explore this special place. To see pictures of last year’s celebration, visit http://on.fb.me/1nhTN0G.
The downstream run for a juvenile Chinook salmon can be a gauntlet. Flushed from mountain headwaters, they ride high winter flows with logs and stones, avoiding predators, looking for food, seeking to grow before heading out to the ocean. Floodplains and side channels can provide a bounty and a respite, but as waters drop young fish can also be cut off and isolated, trapped in pools and then puddles that warm and make them vulnerable to hungry birds, bull frogs and non-native bass.
This fall on Green Island we brought in the heavy equipment – dump trucks, backhoes, loaders, and even cranes – to provide safer passage for such small fry.
What you’ll see
The next time you cross the old McKenzie channel or “the neck” near the property’s center, you’ll see the results of three major earthworks that will make it easier for young salmon to get in and to get out of the site. The low water crossing, our road access across the historic McKenzie River channel onto the property, has been completely retrofitted with a concrete span engineered to withstand significant winter flooding. Crews have also been hard at work on a side channel of the Willamette River, placing massive logs and root-wads there, creating pools that are perfect for young salmon. And a culvert thirteen feet in diameter will help connect side channels of the mainstem Willamette to the historic McKenzie channel for longer seasonal stretches.
Why are we doing it?
These changes will provide more frequent floodplain connections, better passage for fish through the area, and better places for native fish and wildlife to thrive. The project brought more than $270,000 for local restoration contractors, including R.L. Reimers Company of Albany and the Corvallis-based River Design Group. Grants from the Bonneville Power Administration Willamette Biological Opinion Habitat Technical Team and Natural Resources Conservation Service are funding the work.
In the coming years, we expect to be carrying out similar work around the CARP ponds – the gravel mining site that we added to Green Island in 2010 – so look forward to more big equipment and earth moving on behalf of some tiny little fish.
McKenzie River Trust Invites the Community to Explore
10 Years of Habitat Conservation on Property Near Eugene
[EUGENE, ORE.] When you picture re-forestation in Oregon, you might imagine the cool mountains of the Cascades or Coast range. But a different kind of re-forestation has been steadily enhancing native habitat on the Willamette Valley floor for the past 8 years, much closer to Eugene than you may know. With the Living River Celebration: 10 Years on Green Island from 7am to 5pm on Saturday, June 29, the McKenzie River Trust invites the community to explore this special place just 15 minutes from downtown Eugene or Springfield.
Green Island is located at the confluence of the McKenzie and Willamette Rivers just west of Coburg, OR. Since 2006, the McKenzie River Trust has been undertaking an ambitious habitat restoration project on the property, planting tens of thousands of trees, removing barriers to floodplain connectivity, and enhancing side channels of the Willamette and historic McKenzie rivers. The restoration has already provided benefits to Chinook salmon, Red-legged frogs, Western Meadowlarks, and many more native species.
Ten years ago, the McKenzie River Trust was able to purchase 865 acres of land from the Green family, who had a vision for a restored natural area on farmland that was subject to flooding. Funding for the purchase was provided by the Bonneville Power Administration and Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Willamette Wildlife Mitigation Program, Eugene Water and Electric Board, US Fish and Wildlife Service’s North American Wetlands Conservation Act, and individual supporters of the Trust.
Today, the Green Island habitat complex measures nearly 1,100 acres thanks to additional land transactions that have expanded the conserved area.
The McKenzie River Trust frequently hosts small tours and volunteer events on the land, but for the Living River Celebration on Saturday, June 29, an array of offerings will greet visitors interested in nature. “Many people have helped us plant trees, pull weeds, and learn about this place over the last ten years,” says Joe Moll, McKenzie River Trust Executive Director. “While enjoying a walkabout, music, canoeing, tree climbing, and a picnic beside two of our community’s great rivers at the Living River Celebration, you can see some of the changes that have occurred thanks to that support, and help us think about the next ten years of work to be done.”
The Living River Celebration is sponsored by Mountain Rose Herbs. The event is free and family friendly. Gates will open at 7am and close at 5pm. The full day of activities on the land includes:
Exploring nearly 7 miles of trails. Points of interest throughout the Island will tell the story of this special place where wildflowers bloom, salmon hide, turtles bask, and volunteers plant trees, restoring the floodplain forest.
Free guided walks all day. Choices include: early morning Bird Walks, an Ethnobotany Walk, two Green Island Restoration Tours, an Amphibian and Reptile Walk with Dr. Tom Titus, a Dragonfly & Damselfly Walk with Cary Kerst, a Nature Tour with Bruce Newhouse and Peg Boulay, and a Native Plant and Herb Walk with Mountain Rose Herbs.
Canoeing and Kayaking: Explore a bit of a historic McKenzie River channel on the water. Try paddling a canoe or kayak for free, offered by Oregon Paddle Sports.
Tree Climbing: Get a bird’s-eye view by climbing up into a cedar tree with the experts from the Pacific Tree Climbing Institute.
Music: The Blue McKenzie (11am-12pm) acoustic trio returns to Green Island. Then from 1-3pm, The Whiskey Chasers will bring their bluegrass-old-time-country, grassytonk-dance-stomp to the stage.
Oakshire Brewing will join in the celebration by serving their Watershed IPA. Through Oakshire’s 1% for Watersheds program, the brewery is donating 1% of all sales of Watershed IPA in the Southern Willamette Valley in 2013 to the McKenzie River Trust.
Food: Sammitch Food Cart will serve up their unique local fare. So Delicious Dairy Free will also be giving away frozen treats. Or you can bring your own picnic. You can also fill up your water bottle with fresh water from McKenzie Mist.
Booths: Learn about the history of Green Island, the work of the McKenzie River Trust, partner organizations and lots more at The Hub’s educational booths. Booths include: McKenzie River Trust; McKenzie Watershed Council; Long Tom Watershed Council; Siuslaw Watershed Council; Middle Fork Watershed Council; Mountain Rose Herbs; Eugene Water and Electric Board; Terra Tech; McKenzie River History with the University of Oregon Environmental Leadership Program and McKenzie River Mobile Museum; Hands-On Nature with David Walp’s amazing touch & feel mammal specimen collection; and Karma’s Forest Native Nursery with examples of the native plants used to restore Green Island’s habitat.
About the McKenzie River Trust:
The mission of the McKenzie River Trust (MRT) is to protect and care for special lands and the rivers the flow through them in western Oregon. Formed in 1989, MRT is committed to a future in which intact, functioning ecosystems provide clean water, abundant fish and wildlife, and productive natural landscapes throughout western Oregon. In the year 2000, MRT expanded its service area from a focus solely on the McKenzie watershed, the source of Eugene and Springfield’s drinking water. Today, MRT works in the watersheds of the McKenzie, Long Tom, Upper Willamette, Coast and Middle Forks of the Willamette, Umpqua, Siuslaw, and coastal streams and lakes from Reedsport to Yachats. Throughout its history, MRT has worked with landowners and diverse partnerships to protect, forever, over 3,650 acres of special lands in western Oregon. Green Island, a 1,100-acre property at the confluence of the McKenzie and Willamette rivers, is MRT’s largest protected property.
Contractors have been hard at work on the south end of Green Island this month. Bulldozers, excavators, and large trucks removed four berms that limited the flow of high water onto the interior of the property. Within years, native grasses, incense cedar, Douglas fir, and ponderosa pine will fill an area that was once covered in blackberry vines and reed canary grass.
MRT is undertaking this work on the higher floodplain near side channels and sloughs of the Willamette River to allow for seasonal connections that have been prevented by these berms.
Active floodplains can provide many benefits to people, fish and wildlife, and they’re key to maintaining the qualities that define our Oregon landscapes. Floodplains clean water by filtering it through many layers of gravel and sediment, and they can buffer flooding impacts on downstream areas.
Floodplain side channels and sloughs also create spawning and rearing habitat for endangered salmon. Studies on Green Island completed by Oregon State University and the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife show that Oregon chub, Chinook salmon, and other native fish use these channels throughout many phases of their lifecycles. Floodplain forests, once abundant along the Willamette River, also harbor sensitive birds, amphibians such as red legged-frogs, and reptiles like western pond turtles.
Since 2005, MRT has been working to re-establish floodplain forest habitat for fish and wildlife by removing man-made obstructions and planting over 300 acres of Green Island with native trees, shrubs, and grasses. Local farmers, hundreds of volunteers, and dozens of local contractors have been involved in restoration efforts on the 1,000+ acre property just downstream of the confluence of the McKenzie and the Willamette rivers.
The berms removed this month were originally built 20-40 years ago to reduce flooding on farm fields. The 3,500 cubic yards of sandy loam dirt that was removed will be reused in the Coburg Aggregate Reclamation Project (CARP). The former gravel mines at CARP along the eastern edge of Green Island will also be restored to native habitat in the coming years.
In recent years, habitat restoration projects at Green Island have been supported by grants from the Bonneville Power Administration, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board, US Fish and Wildlife Service, and Meyer Memorial Trust. Individual donations also support our restoration efforts at Green Island and on the other properties we protect throughout western Oregon. For more information about Green Island, visit: http://18.104.22.168/~mckenzi9/protected-lands/owned-properties/green-island
McKenzie River Trust is a Key Partner in the Effort to Remove Ivy Infestations
As people from Eugene/Springfield take to the Willamette River on hot afternoons this summer, they might get a glimpse at an innovative partnership that’s cleaning up some familiar Lane County boat landings and private lands.
Six non-profit organizations and public agencies are working together to remove key infestations of invasive English ivy and other weeds, and the results may be noticeable to area boaters, anglers, and those enjoying a swim or float down the river.
Crews from the Northwest Youth Corps are at the center of the weed removal efforts along the Willamette this month. High school students, led by trained crew leaders, are pulling and digging out ivy on Hileman Landing County Park and several state parks including Christensen’s Boat Ramp, Marshall Island Boat Ramp, and Beacon Landing. The crews are also working on Green Island, owned by the McKenzie River Trust, and other private lands nearby.
“English ivy is present throughout the Willamette River corridor, and it is contributing to the loss of floodplain forest by smothering native ground vegetation and choking trees,” said Nicole Nielsen-Pincus, Willamette Program Manager for the McKenzie River Trust and a coordinator of the multi-partner effort. “We’re lucky to have a great river to enjoy right in our backyard, and the areas of floodplain forest and back water channels provide essential habitat for native Chinook salmon, western pond turtles, migratory birds and other species of concern. That’s why these conservation efforts are so important.”
Due to disturbances from flood events and recreational use of waterways, river corridors are especially vulnerable to the establishment of ivy and other weeds. Rivers such as the Willamette are a pathway for the spread of weeds, making early detection and response essential.
“This is a great partnership that brings together not only diverse organizations, but also private citizens and local youth,” said Scott Youngblood, a Park Ranger with the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department, and another project leader. “The result of this work will be immediately noticeable to recreational users of these river front properties.”
Along with ivy, other weeds that will be targeted for removal include purple loosestrife, Japanese knotweed, and traveler’s joy. “The target species in this project are capable of dramatic growth, and their removal will both benefit floodplain habitat and increase the scenic qualities Oregonians have come to love along the Willamette River,” Youngblood said.
The partnership intends to continue on-the-ground work through 2013, with the Long Tom Watershed Council and McKenzie River Trust doing outreach to private landowners to identify additional project sites this year. Willamette River landowners with a significant invasion of invasive species who would like to learn more about the project are invited to call Nicole Nielsen-Pincus, Willamette Program Manager with the McKenzie River Trust at 541-345-2799.
An article about these efforts appeared in the August 2, 2012 issue of the Register-Guard newspaper. Read the article.
Get your boots on the ground and your hands dirty volunteering with the McKenzie River Trust’s Green Island Project Manager Chris Vogel. Help care for this unique site. You’ll mulch trees that need protection from the summer heat while learning more about habitat restoration.
Join dragonfly experts Steven Gordon and Cary Kerst for an afternoon field course on dragonflies and damselflies. Learn about the life cycle, preferred habitat, and behavior of these fascinating creatures who call Green Island home.
Explore Waite Ranch and the Duncan Island Conservation Easement, conservation lands protected by the McKenzie River Trust between Florence and Mapleton, from a kayak. We’ll spend the day on the Siuslaw Estuary, led by an expert guide from Oregon Paddle Sports. Good physical condition and moderate kayaking experience is required.
Get your boots on the ground and your hands dirty volunteering with the McKenzie River Trust’s Green Island Stewardship Technician Dane Moeggenberg and Project Manager Chris Vogel. Help care for this unique site. You’ll build browse protectors for trees planted in the northeast section of the island near the historic McKenzie River channel.
With the buzz of bees and dragonflies, birds fledging, and the native plants (and weeds, too) growing like mad, we know that spring is just about behind us! Just days away from summer solstice, we’re very excited to welcome two new faces around the office and our protected lands.
Robin Meacher – Legal Intern
Robin joins us this summer to research legal issues and tools the McKenzie River Trust uses to achieve our conservation goals. She will begin her second year as a law student at the University of Oregon in the fall. She holds a B.A. in Environmental Studies from the University of California, Santa Barbara. Between her undergraduate work and law school, Robin studied resource management and anthropology in the Solomon Islands, and worked with a community organization focused on citizen engagement in the land use process in Santa Barbara. Having grown up in Northeastern California and spending the last six years in Southern California, Robin uses whatever spare time she gets exploring Oregon.
Dane Moeggenberg – Summer Field Technician
Dane will spend the summer working on Green Island, assisting with stewardship of the more than 1,000 acres of floodplain restoration there. Dane has a bachelor’s degree in Freshwater Resource Management from Indiana University. He has been working in land management for about two years: first as a Conservation Technician in Traverse City, Michigan, then as a Crew Supervisor with Lane-Metro Youth Corps here in Eugene. He enjoys cooking, hiking, and exploring Oregon on his motorcycle. He has a passion for the protection and enhancement of freshwater ecosystems and is very excited to be with the Trust this summer.