Conservation groups are hailing what they call a major step toward restoring salmon and steelhead populations in Central Oregon.
Tuesday construction crews successfully redirected a section of Whychus Creek, restoring a historic spawning and rearing habitat.
Excavators are moving a giant mass of earth into a man-made logjam. Soon, for the first time in a half century this nearby field will flow with water from Whychus Creek.
50 years ago heavy machinery not unlike this straightened what was a winding creek. The idea was to help prevent flooding. But according to Ryan Houston that process also destroyed fish habitat.
Houston is the executive director of the Upper Deschutes Watershed Council. He says back in 2009 crews began to dig nearly 2 miles of new channel planting it with 200,000 native plants.
“And now here in 2012, what we’re doing is basically releasing the flow of the creek into that new channel. Off it goes,” Houston says.
The return of waters to this land has been a long time in the making. It’s been more than a decade since the Deschutes Land Trust bought the property for this purpose.