28 Nov The Future “Quality of Life” in Clark County is Highly Dependent on Water
The Future “Quality of Life” in Clark County is Highly Dependent on Water
By Richard Dryland
The water situation (quality & quantity) in western Oregon and Washington is changing for both groundwater and surface water supplies. We are drawing heavily on the storage aquifers. More water is being lost as storm runoff, instead of infiltrating back into the ground. Weather patterns appear to be changing also. THAT WHICH WE STILL HAVE, NEEDS TO BE MANAGED MUCH BETTER.
Impacts on water supply and flow affect many of our activities, how we live and the costs, regardless if they are public or private. An example of water problems from limited water supply and flow is the impact of low river flows in the summer when many types of water associated recreation occurs. The East Fork of the Lewis River is severely impacted by high water temperatures in the summer and poor recreation floating and fishing conditions. This is caused by very low flows in a river that has become wide and shallow largely due to the impacts of “people activities” over time.
Wetlands are also key in the process of both re-charging our groundwater, cooling and cleaning up water, and releasing it in a slow and steady rate that reduces impacts and helps sustain stream flows. Yet, even now in some areas in Clark County wetlands are being modified or filled in.
As part of the riparian stream bank, river, and watershed protection and improvement program, over 22 million dollars has been spent directly on the East Fork. These funds came from federal, state, county, and private sources. The funds were spent on streamside land acquisition and easements as well as stream and riparian restoration work. Much more is needed and it needs to be done more effectively.
Recent examples of steps taken to protect newly hatched salmon and steelhead (fry) from high summer temperatures is the 700 ft. long restored river section that has two very deep pools. It is located downstream from the Bonneville Powerline river crossing on the Swanson property in the lower East Fork Lewis River. The project is the result of cooperation between the Dean Swanson family, state agencies, Friends of the East Fork, and Healing Waters Veterans Group.
The new specially designed side-channel is a source of 57 degree groundwater inflow (15 degrees cooler than the river) that provides cool water to the river as well as the side channel. When summer flows in a river exceed 76 degrees, fish become stressed. Adult fish as well as fry and juveniles will die when temperatures of 78 to 80 degrees or higher are reached for multiple days. In recent years temperatures of 80 degrees have been reached for over 4 days, resulting in sever impacts to the life cycle of salmon and steelhead populations as well as other life forms in the river.
Another example to improve water conditions and increase salmon fry survival, involved military veterans from the Healing Waters Veterans Group. They added Christmas trees to the two pools at the lower end of Manly Road Creek just before it enters the East Fork. Those trees without their needles, provide an exceptionally high density of cover and predator protection for the 5,000 or more salmon fry now occupying the in-stream pools. The pools utilize groundwater from protected sources and upstream spring fed water sources. As more development occurs, Clark County will need to provide better planning and protection of these spring and groundwater sources than it has in the recent past.
Richard Dryland is a Board Member with Friends of Clark County and President of Friends of the East Fork, a group dedicated to preserving habitat for fish. He lives with his wife Sunee near the East Fork Lewis River. Bio of Richard here.