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Paid in Full

Posted by Mark Friday, January 28, 2011 1 comments

I may check this out when it comes around. One fish gives new meaning to the words  "catching air" .....a super duper high jumper!



Huge BC steelhead action on dry flies from Roy Wheeldon on Vimeo.

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Native fish back in the big city

Posted by Mark Sunday, January 23, 2011 1 comments

A pretty cool article about habitat restoration of Crystal Spring Creek. Native fish are finding their way home. If there is hope for them in metropolis, we can surely be hopeful of restoration in some of our wilder areas that have been impacted by humans. Check it out :Reed Canyon restoration article

Some more info from the college site, check it at: Reed Canyon site

Some footage of native fish caught on camera in the Reed Canyon area:

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The Best band you never heard

Posted by Mark Thursday, January 20, 2011 0 comments

I haven't been fishing lately with all the high water but I have been listening to some great music among other things. Here is something you might enjoy.

Enrique Casal has to be one of the finest unknown guitar players around. The tone of his guitar, his singing and playing are so eerily close to Hendrix  it's almost scary.This guy can flat get it done. Very tight playing. I don't know of anyone around today that is killing this stuff like he is. This was shot in Switzerland where the band is all from.....I wish they would come over and play sometime. If you appreciate good playing at all you will quickly realize that while virtually unknown,this guy is a guitar GIANT. I like Zappa's Muffin Man at the end. Sweet!



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Fish Creek Watershed and Low Impact Hydro

Posted by Mark Monday, January 17, 2011 1 comments

 The first link below is a great description of the Fish Creek watershed and all of the diversity found there. Miles of historic spawning area in a pristine setting. There are some natural barriers/falls that potentially block fish from going into the upper reaches. However,the diversion dam,canal and flume on the creek aren't going to do the fish any favors IF they get up there with the new passage at Soda Springs.There is a lot more going on up there then most people know.

Check it -Fish Creek watershed


The whole Pacificorp project has a total of  8 dams, along with flumes,canals and diversions. This project is anything but low impact. These watersheds have been seriously degraded by both logging and this water diversion and power production. I am amazed at the amount of stuff there is back up these canyons. Mostly bidden from the eyes of the public due to the remoteness of the area. Soda Springs dam is most visible but only one of the eight. EIGHT dams on a river the size of the upper North Umpqua. That boggles the mind people. They are not Hoover dam sized but they don't need to be.

The second link below shows the entire project and describes each of the different hydro components. At the bottom of the second link page are numerous comments and thoughts from many who were against the re-license agreement and why they were against it. Some good reading here, and although this project has made it through the re-license agreement, I just wanted to show people the impact on this whole watershed......it's far reaching.


Check it -  Not so Low Impact Hydro

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The Steamboat Struggle

Posted by Mark Friday, January 14, 2011 0 comments

The Steamboat Struggle, on its way out? Steamboat Falls Fish Ladder Assessment and Design Project

posted Monday, October 10, 2010 by Cheryl Caplan

Steamboat Falls at low flow with spillway (center) and entrance to the fish ladder (bottom, center).


Textured concrete "roof" over fish ladder at Steamboat Falls.


Top of Steamboat Falls at low flow with water flowing over the constructed spillway.
A dam built in 1966 on Steamboat Creek in SW Oregon is scrutinized to reduce sediment and debris clogging the fishway and improve the attraction flow to the fish ladder at a cost of up to $800,000.

The Steamboat Falls Fish Ladder on the North Umpqua River is deteriorating. The ladder was originally constructed in 1957 after some blasting in the area destroyed the natural path for fish migrating upstream. It was demolished in 1964 and again rebuilt in 1965-1966. That is the last time it was substantially restored.

Today, summer steelhead are making their way up the river. Unfortunately, when they reach Steamboat Falls the steelhead tend to push more towards the spillway due to the attraction flow to that area. The second level of the spillway is far too shallow and fast for the fish, making it an impassable obstacle.

One of the reasons the ladder is often less enticing for the fish is that the antique structure gets blocked, primarily during fall and winter. This can slow the water trickling through or halt it entirely, making the ladder virtually invisible to these instinctive creatures. Even when the ladder does flow freely, it cannot compete with the temptation of the spillway.

Lead Fish Biologist for the Umpqua National Forest, Jeff Dose, believes most of the fish do find the ladder eventually, evidenced in July by the 60-some steelhead, cutthroat and Chinook up the river at Lee Spencer's Fishwatch station at Upper Bend Pool. The fish just waste valuable time getting upriver.

As Jeff stood near the ladder, watching the steelhead attempt time and again to conquer that spillway, he simply shook his head and muttered, "That's not good." He explains that not only is the impossible challenge not healthy for the fish but it leaves them wide open for poaching."We want them to use this ladder and make their way upstream to Big Bend pool or to another holding area."

Efforts to rectify the ladder's shortcomings received a $20,000 kick start in 2009 from Title II of the Secure Rural Schools legislation. At a Rogue-Umpqua Resource Advisory Committee meeting held in 2010, the committee approved another $23,000 to re-design the ladder. The contract will be awarded to the project in March 2011.

The Title II funding is just the beginning. A meeting to discuss the options improving the ladder is set for late August. All the dedicated partners will attend the meeting, including Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife, The North Umpqua Foundation, Steamboaters, and U.S. Forest Service. While there, the partners will deliberate on how to best fulfill their shared goals for the ladder in the most cost-effective manner.
Experts are re-designing the fish ladder with two main goals: reduce sediment and debris clogging the fishway and improve the attraction flow to the ladder. Costs will range between $200,000 and $800,000, depending on which of three alternatives are used.

Jeff is optimistic about the future for the Steamboat Falls Fish Ladder and it would appear that concrete steps are being made to assure its long overdue revamping.

Directions: Steamboat Falls is located on Steamboat Creek approximately five miles upstream from the confluence with the North Umpqua River. At milepost 38.3 on Oregon State Highway 138, turn north on Steamboat Road #38. Drive 5.3 miles to Road 3810, turn right and stay to the left for 0.6 miles to the entrance of Steamboat Falls Campground. The 25-foot falls are near campsites 5 & 6.


Below is some additional info and link for the fish passage improvements scheduled for Steamboat Falls in the next few years. The current ladder(shown below) goes through the cement structure on the right side emerging above the falls in the small calm pool. This passage is outdated and prone to blockage. The new plan addresses these issues and will hopefully improve the situation.


The following was taken from the Steamboaters  page

Steamboat Falls Fish Passage  By Len Volland

Steamboat Falls is located on Steamboat Creek approximately five miles upstream from the confluence with the North Umpqua River. A concrete fish ladder at Steamboat Falls was built during the summers of 1958 and 1959 primarily for the purpose of assisting both summer and winter run steelhead to negotiate the falls during periods of low summer flow or higher fall and winter flows. This original ladder was severely damaged by the 1964 flood. The current fish ladder was reconstructed in 1966. The fish ladder has become plugged with debris at least three times over the last 10-15 years to the point where fish passage has been temporarily blocked. The North Umpqua Foundation, with financial contribution from Steamboaters, hired Michael Love and Associates to evaluate the Steamboat Falls Fish Passage issue and provide a geological and economic analysis with alternatives. Their report was published in February 2010 and offered three alternatives: first, demolish portions of the current ladder and reconstruct a new spillway; secondly, excavate bedrock to provide a fishway with pools; and thirdly, develop bedrock pools with concrete weirs. Cost estimates ranged from a high of $1.3 million to reconstruct the ladder of alternative one down to $411,000 for bedrock pools of alternative two.
A meeting occurred in early March between the US Forest Service, the ODFW, The North Umpqua Foundation and Steamboaters to discuss the Steamboat Falls fish passage issue. The Umpqua National Forest owns the land at Steamboat Falls while the ODFW owns the existing fish ladder and has an easement for its operation. The Forest Service intends to evaluate the fish passage issue using the NEPA process. As of early April attorneys from both agencies were not sure whether the fish passage project would fall under a categorical exclusion or require an environmental assessment with a decision document. A meeting is set for early May to discuss the technical construction aspects of the project. At this meeting the alternatives proposed in the Michael Love report will be considered in addition to any other potential alternatives. If the NEPA process runs smoothly, forest representatives hope a document would be available for public review by this fall with construction occurring in 2011.
During the March interagency meeting, ODFW personnel provided anecdotal information from their historical files dating back to 1946, which suggested winter steelhead might not have negotiated the falls in significant numbers. The winter vs. summer steelhead issue is critical, since the outcome will probably determine construction design based on anticipated river flows and those flow rates amenable to fish passage. Funding of the fish passage project will most likely be from PacificCorp mitigation money in partnership with other organizations.


Here is a link to the approved plan,costs and what will be involved over the next few years.

Steamboat Falls fish ladder improvement plan

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Fish Passage above Soda Springs Dam

Posted by Mark Tuesday, January 11, 2011 3 comments

So the fish passage construction at the Soda Springs dam has been underway for a while now. Actual construction began in 2009 and should be complete by 2011. It would have been a great thing to see this dam go away, but after the re license agreement of 2001 this will not be a reality for some time....maybe not ever. The thing that gets me is this dam does not directly provide power or benefit to anyone in Douglas county, The power produced here goes into the Pacific Power Grid and could be sent wherever. Most likely somewhere  they can get an maximum profit.Another example of the rich getting richer on our public resources,and the people,fish and resources most affected left hanging.

While the fish passage is a good thing,and at this point the only thing that can be done to get fish into the spawning areas above,it is still  far cry from a free and clear natural passage. It is an olive branch from the power company to say that they are doing great things for the fish. This is about a sixty million dollar olive branch . And as I said before, when it is all said and done the odds of them tearing it down anytime soon is almost an impossibility in my lifetime. No, this puppy will probably be around when my kids are grown up. Much like the fish passage on the Deschutes at Pelton Dam.....it will be a long time before anyone can say if it worked or not. At least a long time before anyone admits that it worked or not.

The good thing is the fish passage will allow fish to get above the dam into pristine spawning habitat.Fish are resilient and the will they WILL get there eventually. The bad  thing is that despite this passage, the dam still holds back major spawning gravels for fish BELOW the dam. This gravel has been blocked since the 1950's when the dam was built. With winter fish being main stem(North Fork) spawners this lack of gravel has surely impacted the amount and quality of the spawning areas that fish use.There has been some attempt to introduce gravel below the dam but surely it has not been what the natural dispersal would have been on an annual basis.Additionally the water flow is obviously controlled to produce power and not rise and fall in a rhythm with the seasons. This fact alone will not allow the gravel that has been introduced in the last few years to be washed down steam. A nice gesture but it cannot replace what nature does on it's own.

In the end, tons of politics, big business getting bigger and the fish get not much more than a nod on this one. Sure some jobs were created but those workers are not making the majority of the money here. Someone in a big chair smoking a cigar as well as stockholders stand to make money on this whole re-license agreement as time goes by.

Like I said however small,it is a nod to the fish and in the right direction but maybe to little too late.But to see salmon and steelhead up in the Fish Creek area would be very cool. Maybe there is a little silver lining in every cloud.

Links to a few articles on the whole dam issue:

Fish Passage at Soda Springs

 Pacific Corp dragging their feet.

KATU article

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A Tempoary Refuge

Posted by Mark Sunday, January 9, 2011 0 comments



A TEMPORARY REFUGE
Natural History of a
Wild Summer Steelhead Refuge Pool
in the Western Cascades of Oregon
by
Lee Spencer
© Lee Spencer
and
The North Umpqua Foundation
All rights reserved


A stranger comes down into the viewing area at the pool and sees the steelhead.
“What are these fish?”
“Summer steelhead.”
“What are the rest?”
A letter from Gargantua to his son Pantagruel,
“A knowledge of nature is indispensable; devote yourself to this study with unflagging curiosity.  Let there be no sea, river or fountain but you know the fish that dwell in it.  Be familiar with the shrubs, bushes and trees in forest or orchard, all the plants, herbs and flowers that grow on the ground, all the birds of the air, all the metals in the bowels of the earth, all the precious stones in the orient and the south.  In a word, be well informed in everything that concerns the physical world we live in.”
Francois Rabelais
PREFACE
A PERCH
It might be the shovel-scraping-on-asphalt croak of a blue heron or the brilliant complex cascading song of the winter wren, it could be the yammering calls of the kingfisher or the lively guttural chatter of a dipper, in the fall it could be the pure clear whistles of a flock of kinglets moving through the trees and shrubs surrounding my camp that I become aware of as I wake.  It could be the splash or surge of a steelhead turning near the surface in the pool or the rain dropping to tarps.  It could be anything.  I am reasonably sure, however, that it’s the vibrations of my movements toward the front end of this twenty-five-foot Airstream trailer and/or some aspect of the soft explosion of the gas burner under the pot of creek water that wakes Sis, my fifteen-year-old heeler companion who, though happy and spry—still able to take three stair steps at a bound on a good afternoon—has become largely deaf.  Always there is the sound of the main creek as a backdrop, rushing almost booming along if it is in spate, burbling and with musical overtones that remind me of winter wrens when it is slower and low enough for some of the boulders to surface in the riffles above and below the pool.

Sooner or later during any given day, Sis and I negotiate the short zigzag of trail down to the viewing area, a small terrace that has formed about fifteen feet above the creek.  We settle ourselves there on a wooden observation platform constructed next to the base of a twisted old-growth fir.  This is our Perch.  It is located over the middle of a moderate-sized pool which—from early summer through late autumn—contains an average of around a hundred-fifty wild summer steelhead, with high counts of 500 to 700 of these anadromous rainbows, each season.  From the Perch, the steelhead are fifty to eighty feet away from us in water that is usually clear enough to see what a person might want to see, for instance, whether a steelhead is a male or a female.  Once the cooler days and nights of autumn arrive, the clarity of the creek becomes such that I can see the smallest anatomical details and even tell which way a steelhead may be looking.
For more than six years now, Sis and I have spent much of our time from mid-May through early to middle December seated at this Perch watching these fish and whatever else is happening around the pool.  A long history of poaching at the pool is the reason why we are here.  These large groups of steelhead have been a focus of poaching for more than four human generations.  We are a deterrent to this activity, a poaching so pervasive and thorough that the pool has earned the local name of The Dynamite Hole.  These dynamitings used to happen once or twice a year and, of course, for every one of these explosions, there have been multiple snaggings and other types of poaching.
 
Lest we come down too hard on local people in this regard—local people anywhere there is poaching—we should bear in mind that, to all intents and purposes, the smaller and smaller numbers of wild adult salmon returning to their natal streams and the loss of local breeding populations here along the edge of the North Pacific was not—for the most part—brought into being by poaching . . . or by seals or otters.  The fundamental aspects of the Pacific salmon problem are and continue to be primarily the result of our industrial assault on the webbing of primal ecologies and our population numbers and what we think and accept that it takes to feed, cloth, warm, and entertain us in the ways that we have become used to.  So the summer steelhead have found their refuge and, because the enemy we have met is us, this refuge for now and for the foreseeable future itself needs a caretaker.  Presently, Sis and I are these caretakers and we know we are lucky to be so, lucky to be doing something that is this positive in such a straightforward fashion.  We are also lucky to be able to live so simply for seven months of the year.

The summer steelhead that gather in this pool each season are here because it is a haven from summer heat and summer and autumn low flows in the creek.  The wild fish that use the pool do so because it is possible to and because their life habits make it necessary.  If there were no cool deep refuges on this Western Cascades creek, there would be no steelhead holding in the creek from early summer through late autumn.  Equally, if there were no summer steelhead populations that continued to enter their natal streams nine to ten months before spawning, no refuge from warm and low water would be necessary for them.

The last dynamiting event at the pool occurred in 1993.  People began to volunteer to stay up here after that, myself and Sis among them, though we began three years later in 1996.  During those early years people would sign up for a day here or two days there.  When Sis and I came to the pool during those times, usually we would arrive in the late afternoon or evening and set up a cot behind the truck—with a bed for Sis under it.  My memories of these nights do not include heroic escapades of saving steelhead because it was then and is now a human presence that is the deterrence, volunteers at the pool are warm bodies.  I do remember many times drifting off to sleep watching the brilliant array of stars centered around the Milky Way as they made their oblique way across the northeast/southwest opening in the larger surrounding trees.  In those days, what time was spent at the pool was short and involved camp duties or it was sleep time.

The first day of the first year that Sis and I set up a season-long camp at the pool—this was 1999 and camp was a tent and tarps that year—I realized that it was a different situation, that Sis and I were going to have a lot of time on our hands, or paws, as the case may be.  You can consider me slow, and I am in certain ways, but it didn’t occur to me until that first day that the pool represented an unusual opportunity to watch and to take notes on whatever the wild summer steelhead there seemed to be doing.

Note taking and observation is what I had spent the previous more than twenty-five years doing as a working prehistoric archeologist, that is, I spent a large part of every year working outside in the dirt.  Not only was I comfortable working out of a field camp, but I was particularly trained in documentation of the little known and the unknown—archeology encounters only fragments of time and culture, those artifacts and their associations that have been left behind by variably ancient peoples, and these fragments have been acted on by the natural processes of weathering.  So any archeologist with their eyes open is dealing with unknowns all the time.  An abiding interest in natural history has suggested many useful answers to archeological puzzles for me and it seemed like this interest would serve me well at the pool too.  The final but by no means the least consideration that led to this note taking, which in turn led to this book, was exceeding curiosity.  By 1999, I had been casting flies to steelhead in the North Umpqua River for more than seventeen years and these fish fascinated me to no end.  They still do.
 
So to see what I could see and to pass the season in an interesting way, I decided to try to make an informal study of wild summer steelhead behavior at the pool.  Now, it is clear that I really had no idea what I was getting into.

By the time of this writing, I have typed up six of these seasonal volumes of natural history notes which amount to a total of more than a million and a half words.  About half of these manuscripts are the timed entries made each season and the rest are tables, analyses, and comparisons.  Whatever else they may be however, these six manuscripts are not by the stretch of any imagination an easy read.  At the suggestion of friends and because of a predilection for making a readable accounting, I have attempted to distil this mass of data about the natural history of the wild steelhead populations that use the pool into a more manageable and readable form.  This narrative is what you have in your hands.
 
I have designed this book to be a seasonal almanac of sorts.  Along with a preliminary chapter called Late Winter and Early Spring, each of the eight months that summer steelhead occupy this pool as a refuge constitutes a chapter, making nine chapters in all.  Other than May and December, these monthly chapters are divided into an early, a middle, and a late part.  The transcriptions of my natural history notes for the past six seasons have been gleaned like a thimbleberry patch . . . or, perhaps more appropriately, a wild strawberry patch, the berries of this latter plant being smaller and more hidden; gleaned for information on the environment, on steelhead and the other Pacific salmon that use the pool, on vegetation, birds, mammals, for information on insects, reptiles and amphibians, and interesting events or stories that were documented during the relevant portion of the relevant month on one of these six years.
There are three appendices, one about hatcheries and artificial fish, one about past abundances of wild summer steelhead in the North Umpqua River, and the other about aspects of casting flies for summer steelhead and fishing ethics in times of warm water.  Additionally, there is a bibliography and a comprehensive glossary of terms and usages.

Finally, there are a lot of endnotes.  I have decided to make my citations in the form of endnotes so that the flow of the reading won’t be interrupted unless the reader desires it to be.  The citations will generally be the date a given observation was made so that the reader can find the data in the natural history notes if they own or have access to the CD containing them.  The endnotes also include ancillary comments and references.
As another issue in this preface, I need to point out a primary and perhaps dangerous characteristic of this type of natural history writing which is organized by month and season.  In the Pacific Northwest and in many other regions on this planet, it is obvious and undeniable that natural cycles organized around seasonal change exist and repeat themselves.  This said, the playing out of a given cycle for a given creature on a given year is not a given.  A colder or warmer or drier or wetter season, a fire, a flood, a population explosion, a mass wastage event, each of these circumstances can affect the timing of a given life-cycle event or an event’s existence at all.  Natural systems are organized around multiple interdependent cycles with variable degrees of uncertainty and it is this uncertainty keeps the ecologies and wild denizens resilient, adaptive, and strong. 
Except for the first chapter entitled Late Winter and Early Spring, what are presented herein by way of seasonal events for wild summer steelhead and various other organisms are based virtually exclusively on what Sis and I have observed at the pool.  If it is included in this book, I have some confidence that it occurs in the right place relative to other things in the book, but I have less confidence that a wetter, drier, warmer, or cooler season won’t shift its timing by ten days or two weeks one way or the other.  Some additional information has been gleaned from various books which will be referenced when this is so.  If you, the reader, come across a passage that you think should have an endnote but doesn’t, this will likely be because I consider it common knowledge.  I could certainly be wrong.
 
It is also important to be aware that this book is written from the perspective of wild, naturally propagated fish in their natural environment, not of hatchery fish.  The reason this is possible is that the absence of adipose fins that characterize this basin’s hatchery fish is clearly visible from the Perch and because 98-100% of the summer steelhead in the pool each of these seasons are wild.  All of the steelhead juveniles are wild.

I have not chosen to name the relevant creeks, but only call them the main creek and the colder tributary creek.  The reason for this is that I do not want to encourage you to visit.  As much as I would like to see you, and I would, and Sis really would too, every visit to the pool has its influence on the peace of mind of the steelhead holding there.  Presently, I record around 1,200 visits each season.  If these visits were to significantly increase in number, it would have negative consequences for the summer steelhead holding in this refuge pool.  My observations make this unambiguously clear.

Finally, a lengthy and somewhat detailed discussion of natural history is difficult without some mention of evolution or ultimate causes.  I believe that evolution and adaptation exist as natural processes and have no purpose, regardless of how awkward my wording may at times become.  Evolution has no direction either.  It is simply a word used for a process of organized change based on the fundamental mutable structure of life in association with the basic changeability of the universe.  Each creature is an equally perfect summation of three billion-plus years of interaction with organic and inorganic, biotic and abiotic environments on this planet.

I do not really believe in single causes, ultimate or otherwise.  I think we are on our own and, solely for us humans, compassion is both possible in any situation and the only important thing.
 
After fifteen or so years of hiding in the wilderness with a tribe of hunting people, watching over their nets, Hui-neng (638-713 Common Era), the pivotal sixth and final patriarch of Chan Buddhism in China, decided to go out again into the world to disseminate his teaching.  On a day when the wind was blowing and pennants were flapping, he came upon two monks arguing about this.  One monk was saying that it was the wind that was moving and the other was saying that it was the flags themselves that were moving.  After listening to them, Hui-neng approached and said that it was neither the wind nor the flags, but it was their minds that were moving.

The mundane mind, for all its apparently static observations of everything, flows.  It sees what it wants to see and then sees support for that conclusion, whatever it is.  The mind, generally, does not easily see what is uncolored by preconceptions.

With apologies to Hui-neng and compliments to Thomas Cleary—I neither read nor speak any Chinese—there are steelhead outside our minds.  These steelhead are themselves as individuals, as demes, and as a species.  They do not know themselves by our name whether this name is steelhead, or Oncorhynchus mykiss, or sea-run rainbow, or some other bright or dark symbol in our minds. 
This almanac merely scratches an itch I have.  I trust that eventually and before it is too late, we can simply leave the wild populations of these fish alone and leave alone what they need to be left alone to survive—protected, but otherwise unhelped—as natural breeding populations.  While this species may not know what is best for itself or know at all in any self-conscious human sense, we certainly do not.  This is abundantly clear.

Sis and my seasonal stays at the pool are made possible with per diem supplied by The North Umpqua Foundation, a non-profit organization I believe in and volunteer with.  The USDA Forest Service is also an active and positive partner in this effort.  The Foundation, bless them, also comes up with a stipend so that I can more easily have the time to transcribe these notes during the five months I am off the pool.  I am sure that Sis and I are luckier than we realize in this fortuitous set of circumstances.

While I may not agree with all of Lee's philosophies and world views, his views on the fish and dedication to protecting them is nothing short of amazing.




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