Tribute to a Fishy Friend

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Last week students from Parrott Creek Ranch Green Team found an unfortunate discovery at their adopted restoration site.  Just 15 feet downstream from the dam on Rinearson Creek near the confluence with the Willamette River was a salmon carcass.  We are awaiting word from the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife for confirmation but we believe it is a spring Chinook.  Spring Chinook begin their migration from April to May and begin to spawn in the fall.

The Rinearson Coalition is a team of nonprofits, concerned landowners, citizens and government agencies working together to determine the health of Rinearson Dam and are actively collecting data and information to make an informed decision regarding possible removal of this dam on Rinearson Creek.

The river and watershed restoration work that SOLV does can help the endangered salmon by improving their habitat. Salmon need cool, clean water, upland and riparian vegetation to stabilize the stream banks, adequate food, varied channels and large woody debris to provide hiding and resting places. SOLV helps meet these needs by removing invasive species and planting native trees to provide shade and cool the river or stream.

How bigger dams in the Willamette harm salmon populations from NOAA:

Today spring Chinook salmon and steelhead are listed on the federal Endangered Species Act. There are 13 dams in the Willamette and most do not include fish passages. The dams that do include fish passages are not very effective. The dams have not only blocked critical, historical salmon habitat upstream but they also contribute to the degradation of downstream habitat. Additionally, the trapping and transporting of the salmon when they are near the dams leads to high rates of prespawning mortality when the salmon die after finally reaching the tributary where they were planning on spawning. Some years as many as 90% of transported fish die.
It is estimated that there were one million in 1900 and now less than 200,000 Lower Columbia River Coho exist. It is not only naturally spawned salmon that are endangered and suffering population declines in the Willamette. Currently the salmon from seven hatcheries are protected by the Endangered Species Act due to small populations.

Parrott Creek Students Tackle Invasives Head-on

This summer, SOLV has started up a partnership with Parrott Creek Ranch. Miles, Xuan, and Perry have had a wonderful time starting to get to know this hard-working and energetic bunch of students! The team is also lucky enough to be joined by Jeff, one of the neighbors living next to Rinearson Creek. The Parrott Creek students, of all high school ages, have now been working at the Rinearson Creek and Meldrum Bar Park sites for the past two and a half weeks. Already, the students have made a significant impact by clearing large patches of invasive blackberry from the slope of Rinearson Creek and pulling wild cucumber and ivy from areas in Meldrum Bar Park. It is amazing how they tackle these invasive plants with such gusto!

Because they will be visiting the sites twice a week over the next six weeks, we know that there is even more of an impact to come. A few of the students have also expressed interest in working with the turtle populations residing in the pond. They loved the idea of getting down in the mud and water to check the turtle traps!

Xuan, Miles, and Perry are looking forward to forming a closer relationship with both Parrott Creek and its students over the coming weeks. This lively group has a lot to offer!

Results of intensive blackberry removal at Rinearson

Oxygen, bugs and sunshine at Rinearson Creek

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Every day is a great day for water quality testing!  Students from Kevin Zerzan’s classes at Gladstone High School visited Rinearson Creek and pond to take a peek at how healthy the waterway is through water quality and macroinvertebrate testing.

In the morning, two classes joined us for macroinvertebrate testing.  The first group tested in a very silty section of the pond and found the water quality to be poor; they found a damselfly nymph, scud, water boatmen and aquatic earthworms.  The second class tested a different part of the pond and found more sensitive species like stoneflies, mayflies, caddisflies as well as damselfly nymphs, scud, aquatic sowbugs, beetle larvae, snails, water boatmen and aquatic earthworms.

In the afternoon, groups of students tested stream temperature at several points of the waterway and found that it measured 13.15 degrees Celsius in the creek at the waterfall and 18.25 degrees Celsius in the pond.  This is a substantial 5.1 degree difference between the two areas, with the cooler water in the flowing creek rather than in the more stagnant pond.

Students also measured the dissovled oxygen, or D.O., of the water’s composition, finding that it measured at 7 mg/L DO with a 67% saturation bove the waterfall and 13.3 mg/L with a 142% saturation in the pond.  SO, what does this even mean?

Dissolved oxygen analysis measures the amount of gaseous oxygen (O2) dissolved in an aqueous solution. Oxygen gets into water by diffusion from the surrounding air, by aeration (rapid movement), and as a waste product of photosynthesis.

Total dissolved gas concentrations in water should not exceed 110 percent. Concentrations above this level can be harmful to aquatic life. Fish in waters containing excessive dissolved gases may suffer from “gas bubble disease”; however, this is a very rare occurrence. The bubbles or emboli block the flow of blood through blood vessels causing death.

Adequate dissolved oxygen is necessary for good water quality. Oxygen is a necessary element to all forms of life. Natural stream purification processes require adequate oxygen levels in order to provide for aerobic life forms. As dissolved oxygen levels in water drop below 5.0 mg/l, aquatic life is put under stress. The lower the concentration, the greater the stress. Oxygen levels that remain below 1-2 mg/l for a few hours can result in large fish kills. (from KY Water Watch)

Students also tested the same areas for macroinvertebrates, or insects that indicate stream health.  When doing this testing, we use something called the Pollution Tolerance Index which assigns points to different species and determines whether a stream is healthy depending on the sensitivity of the species found.

Most macroinvertebrate tests showed up ‘poor’ or ‘fair’ in regards to water quality with the exception of a few up at the creek that were ‘good’:

Rinearson Creek: Aquatic Sowbugs, Caddisfly larva, Mayflies, Stonefly, Leech, Threadworm, Scuds, Snails, Water Boatman

Rinearson Pond: Water Boatmen, Dragonfly larva, Water Mites, Scuds

Gladstone High prevents stream erosion

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Two of Kevin Zerzan’s very enthusiastic environmental science classes at Gladstone High School joined us at Rinearson Creek for the first time this trimester.  Students worked very hard to install over 200 live cuttings made from Red Osier Dogwood and Willow to stabilize eroding stream banks.  Installing live cuttings is a form of stream bioengineering

Conventionally, engineers have used only static inorganic materials that provide neither habitat for fish and wildlife, nor shade for the stream. Bioengineering techniques include effective, low cost methods for protecting and restoring riparian areas. Different species of willows and cottonwoods are used widely for bioengineering projects because they easily form roots on stem cuttings. (from http://www.oregon.gov/DSL/PERMITS/bioengineering.shtml)

These live cuttings will start sprouting new shoots later this spring and summer and will begin to stabilze the soil with their roots, provide much needed shade for the stream and enhance habitat for neighborhood wildlife.  Check out the photos above of dogwood cutting students installed 2 years ago!

Also in the photos above you can see what Rinearson Creek looked like before any work was done in 2007- mowed grass all the way up to the stream banks.  Mowing near the stream banks causes the grass to grow a shallower root system, letting it grow natural produces deeper roots and therefore better soil stability.

Thank you Gladstone High School!  We’re looking forward to working with you again out at the stream!