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Water: Nonpoint Source Success Stories

Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation


Protecting the Floodplain, Riparian, and In-stream Habitat

Land uses on the Umatilla Indian Reservation and in the surrounding Umatilla River watershed (in north central Oregon) include agriculture (both dryland and irrigated), ranching (grazing), forestry, and residential, commercial, and industrial development. These land uses yield a variety of nonpoint sources primarily related to erosion. Thus, for example, they include the loss of wetlands and riparian vegetation along the Umatilla River and its tributaries and runoff from fields, roads, parking areas, and industrial sites. Groundwater contamination may also result from these land uses. Failing septic systems and sewage effluent also contribute to water quality impairments associated with nonpoint source runoff and soil erosion.

River basin protection enhances ancient rights

Throughout the Umatilla River Basin, the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation retain aboriginal and treaty rights related to fishing, hunting, livestock production, and the gathering of traditional plants. Water quality, riparian, and watershed conditions must be managed to provide ample opportunity for the tribes to exercise those rights. Most recently, the tribes have undertaken a project to ensure the in-stream, riparian, and upland habitats for fish, wildlife, and plants.

An integrated approach serves the coldwater fishery

The project is using a watershed protection approach to restore the Umatilla's floodplain, riparian areas, and in-stream habitats. The tribes look forward to improved livestock and crop management practices that will ultimately improve coldwater fisheries (especially the salmonid habitat), water quality, and native plants. Specifically, the tribes will reduce stream temperatures and control sedimentation through increased riparian plantings, shading, and additional groundwater storage and infiltration.

The following objectives have been identified:

  • increase riparian shade and bank storage to improve productivity and survival of adults during holding and spawning of eggs and of juveniles during rearing and passage;
  • improve pasture management and efficiency by rotational grazing and wider use of upland pastures;
  • reduce late summer water temperatures and increase winter stream temperatures to improve productivity and survival of adult salmonids, eggs, and juvenile salmonids during rearing and passage;
  • improve crop management practices to protect and restore water quality and fish habitat;
  • increase riparian vegetation and consider the introduction of beaver to provide natural habitat structural improvements;
  • increase in-stream structure and channel diversity to improve overwintering habitats and fish survival; and
  • implement a proactive approach to private land grazing and agricultural management.

Monitoring for outcomes

Project outcomes can be evaluated by monitoring five categories:

  • physical changes in streambank and floodplain vegetation;
  • changes in water quality (temperature and suspended sediment primarily);
  • juvenile salmonid production;
  • adult salmonid returns; and
  • maintenance of project improvements.

Streambank and floodplain vegetation and stream morphology will be monitored through habitat surveys, photo points, and air photographs; water quality, with permanent in- stream temperature monitoring stations. Other changes can be gaged through synoptic educational and effectiveness monitoring. Salmonid numbers will be monitored, with prior landowner permission, by the Confederated Tribes and the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.

CONTACT: Rick George
Department of Natural Resources Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Reservation
(541) 278-5206

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