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An Overview of Oregon Watershed Councils

Watershed Councils Map and Contact Information

What is a local watershed council and why have one?
Watershed councils are locally organized, voluntary, non-regulatory groups established to improve the condition of watersheds in their local area.

The 1995 Legislature unanimously passed House Bill 3441 providing guidance in establishing watershed councils but making it clear that formation of a council is a local government decision, with no state approval required. Watershed councils are required to represent the interests in the basin and be balanced in their makeup. Watershed councils offer local residents the opportunity to independently evaluate watershed conditions and identify opportunities to restore or enhance the conditions. Through the councils, partnerships between residents, local, state and federal agency staff and other groups can be developed. Through these partnerships and the resulting integration of local efforts, the state´s watersheds can be protected and enhanced.

How is a watershed council formed?
A watershed council is "...a voluntary local organization designated by a local government group convened by a county governing body to address the goal of sustaining natural resource and watershed protection and enhancement within a watershed." This definition is found in state statute, and contains a number of important concepts.

The two primary guidelines provided by the legislature are:
1) that the watershed council be a voluntary, local group, and
2) the council represents a balance of interested and affected persons within the watershed.


What is the benefit to local communities of forming a watershed council?
Watershed Councils are made up of people from the local communities. They represent local knowledge and have ties to the existing community in all its complexity. Watershed councils work across jurisdictional boundaries and across agency mandates to look at the watershed more holistically. The council can be a forum to bring local, state and federal land management agencies and plans together with local property owners and private land managers.

What does a watershed council do?
Local watershed councils are highly effective in the development and implementation of projects to maintain and restore the biological and physical process in the watersheds for the sustainability of their communities. Councils bring varied interests together in a non-regulatory setting to form a common vision for the ecological and economic sustainability and livability of their watershed. Councils often identify landowner participants for important projects, develop priorities for local projects and establish goals and standards for future conditions in the watershed. On-site projects are implemented in an effort to enhance the ability of the watershed to capture, store and beneficially release water.