Klamath River Basin, Southern OR and Northern CA
PROJECT PARTNERS: Klamath Basin Rangeland Trust, Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board
START UP DATE: 2012
PROJECT TYPE: Water Management Agreements
WRCs GENERATED: Yes*
The Klamath River Basin, covering more than 12,000 square miles in southern Oregon and northern California, is considered one the most important waterfowl areas in North America. It is home to six National Wildlife Refuges and supports more than 430 species of wildlife. Extreme over allocation of water resources in the upper Klamath River Basin has resulted in inadequate stream flows and the degradation and/or loss of critical riparian and aquatic habitat.
The conflict between agricultural and ecological water needs in the basin remains one of the most significant environmental issues in the western United States. Sevenmile Creek is located upstream of the Upper Klamath National Wildlife Refuge and contains some of the best remaining stream habitat in the Upper Klamath Basin. The area is home to myriad species and is designated as critical habitat for threatened bull trout, native redband rainbow trout and the sensitive Oregon spotted frog. Irrigation diversions within the watershed have partially or completely dewatered critical streams, while return flows are often too warm or nutrient laden to provide adequate habitat for listed and threatened species.
Historical water use in this area has led to the diversion of the entire flow from the upper reaches of Sevenmile Creek, resulting in the complete dewatering of two miles of the stream and limiting fish access to some of the most critical, intact habitat in the stream system. This dewatering also prevents high quality, cold, clear water from flowing down the remaining 17 miles of Sevenmile Creek to areas located in the National Wildlife Refuge.
Since 2004, the Klamath Basin Rangeland Trust has tested the results of improving flows in Sevenmile Creek. Keeping water in the stream has improved habitat and provided a critical migratory corridor for endangered and threatened species. Through habitat monitoring, there has been a demonstrated linkage between keeping water flow in stream and improvements to fish habitat. With increased flows, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife has reported dramatic increases in the occurrence of redband trout.
With funding provided in part through the sale of Water Restoration Certificates® this project will restore approximately 1.2 billion gallons of water per year to a critical and previously dewatered stream system. The transaction will be completed on a voluntary basis with the landowner. The property will continue to be operated as an active cattle ranch with dryland grazing helping preserve the local agricultural economy while still meeting the needs of endangered species.
*This resource has been reviewed and found to meet the BEF Flow Program Certification Criteria for Evaluating Proposals to Secure Environmental Flows by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.