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Work to begin at the local tributary in late July to improve spawning habitat for redband trout

Ochoco National Forest personnel are gearing up to launch the final phase of a multi-year stream restoration project along Deep Creek.

According to Patrick Lair, the agency's public affairs specialist, the Paulina Ranger District plans to begin stream restoration work along Deep Creek in late July, starting at Deep Creek campground, about three miles east of Big Summit Prairie on Forest Service Road 42, and following the creek upstream for more than seven miles.

Deep Creek is a tributary of the North Fork Crooked River and remains a genetic stronghold for native redband trout within the Crooked River Basin. The watershed is classified as "Functioning at Risk" by a Forest Service analysis due to past land management practices that bermed the channels and reduced vegetative cover.

The Lower Deep Creek Restoration Project is intended to improve spawning habitat for redband trout by reconnecting the channel to its historic floodplain and adding large woody debris to increase shade and complexity. Similar work has taken place in recent years on sections of McKay, Trout and Auger creeks.

The project is undertaken in partnership with Trout Unlimited, and with grant support from the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board.

Work will follow the design criteria authorized in the 2016 Decision Memo for the Lower Deep Creek Restoration Project. That design can be found at https://tinyurl.com/ydeg7g89.

The work will take place on nine different sections of the creek, beginning at Deep Creek campground and continuing east and northeast for seven miles upstream along the creek.

Visitors to the area can expect to see heavy equipment for several weeks in July and August working instream to remove berms and restore floodplains, and placing large trees and other woody material across the channel. Access to several dispersed camping sites along Deep Creek will be temporarily unavailable during implementation. Replanting of riparian trees and shrubs will follow the instream work.

"The treated areas will look very different immediately following implementation," Lair said, "but the long-term result will be healthier, greener riparian areas and improved spawning habitat along Deep Creek.

The Lookout Mountain Ranger District of the Ochoco National Forest will begin implementing the last of three phases of stream restoration work along a one-mile section of McKay Creek starting July 16 and ending Sept. 7.

"The main goals of this restoration project are to improve overall hydrology and riparian ecosystem function and improve spawning habitat for steelhead and redband trout," Lair stated. "Work will focus on reconnecting the channel to its historic floodplain, raising the water table, and adding large woody debris to the stream to increase complexity and slow higher flows, and to improve streamside and wet meadow vegetation."

Last year's forest personnel completed phase two, which focused on floodplain reconnection, raising the water table, and instream pool and riffle habitat improvement in the middle section of the project, as well as restoration of a historic wet meadow.

"This area was seeded with native plant seeds last fall and planted with several thousand riparian trees and shrubs in May," Lair noted.

The final phase of this project will focus on tying work from the previous two years together by restoring another tributary that will provide increased water input to the main stem of McKay Creek. As part of this work, a new culvert will be installed where the tributary crosses Forest Service Road 33. This may require Forest Service Road 33 to be closed from Aug. 6-9 while the culvert is replaced.

Lair noted that this work, like any ground disturbing project, include an initial period when a site may look pretty rough. Forest Service staff asks that the public be patient as this area recovers from the work that was completed to reset the site conditions that will enable the ecosystem to function more sustainably.

"Since completion of the Phase Two work last August, there has already been a positive response to the hydrology and plant regrowth," said Jon Kochersberger, a Forest Service hydrologist for the project. "The water table in this section has already risen up to six feet in areas, and there are several wetland and wet meadow plant species that have naturally regenerated in areas where they haven't been in decades."

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