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Willamette Special Investment Partnership (SIP)
Summary/Background
At its March 2008 meeting, the OWEB Board approved the formation of a Willamette Special Investment Partnership (Willamette SIP). Board members saw the partnership as an important opportunity to address significant ecological outcomes with robust funding partnerships in Oregon’s most populated region.
 
An informal group of experts from various disciplines help guide the Willamette SIP. These individuals have expertise in areas that complement the program’s goals and objectives, such as re-vegetation, fish and wildlife biology, geomorphology and hydrology, and river engineering. The funders convene different members at different times to address specific issues, such as research gaps, mapping needs, program implementation, and monitoring.
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The Willamette Valley has numerous off-channel features such as gravel ponds that can provide habitat for native fish species, amphibians, and waterfowl.

 

 

 

Green Island, just below the confluence of the McKenzie and Willamette rivers, is one example of an opportunity to reconnect the mainstem Willamette River to floodplain ponds (former gravel pits) to improve habitat for native fish.

    
Focus Areas
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The Willamette SIP focuses on two core geographic regions - the historic meander corridor of the entire length of the Willamette mainstem (including the first few river miles of the Coast and Middle Fork Willamette rivers), and selected sub-watersheds of seven Willamette tributaries.
Mainstem Willamette. Along the mainstem, the Willamette SIP targets major tributary confluences and river sections in "Anchor Habitats" where there are opportunities to reconnect the river to its historic floodplain. The program works with willing private landowners and also emphasizes areas of significant public ownership having high restoration potential, intact native habitat, and cool water fish habitat. Grant cycles are offered annually in the early summer for technical assistance and restoration.
 
Model Watersheds.  Willamette SIP supports seven watershed councils (Calapooia, Long Tom, Luckiamute, Marys River, Middle Fork Willamette, North Santiam, and South Santiam) in the implementation of 10-year restoration action plans in 16 sub-watersheds within the seven watersheds. This component of the Willamette SIP is known as the Model Watershed Program (see accompanying map).  Three of the councils — Calapooia, North and South Santiam — have combined into one Model Watershed resulting in a total of five participating Model Watersheds. Grant cycles are offered biennially for riparian restoration activities.
Desired Ecological Outcomes
Outcomes and other information for both the Mainstem and Model Watershed programs can be found in the WSIP Needs Assessment. Below is a brief overview of outcomes for both programs.

Mainstem Outcomes
· 
Increase channel complexity and length
· 
Improve connectivity between the mainstem and its floodplain 
·
Expand the geographic extent and improve the health of floodplain forests
 
Mainstem outcomes are achieved through a combination of land conservation and land restoration, working in concert with willing private landowners and public land management agencies. A sampling of land conservation and restoration projects implemented to date is shown below.
Land Conservation
Land conservation is achieved principally through the BPA-Oregon Willamette Wildlife Mitigation Program, administered by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. All river mile designations are for the Willamette River, unless otherwise noted.
 
Project/Grantee​ ​County
River Mile
​Description
Willamette Confluence
The Nature Conservancy
​Lane County
RM 187
​Fee title acquisition of 1,270 acres at the confluence of the Coast and Middle Forks of the Willamette River.
Blue Ruin Island
McKenzie River Trust
​Lane County
RM 166
​Fee title acquisition of 48 acres adjacent to a relatively deep, cold-water slough attractive to listed fish species.
Harkens Lake
Greenbelt Land Trust
​Benton County
RM 154
​300 acres of conservation easement and 47 forested acres adjacent to the Willamette in fee title.
Horseshoe Lake
Greenbelt Land Trust
​Benton CountyRM 125 ​Conservation easements on a total of 203 acres between Half Moon Bend and Bowers Rock, south of Albany.
 
Restoration – Floodplain Reforestation
The projects shown below are representative of mainstem floodplain reforestation projects.  All six are part of a comprehensive mainstem monitoring effort to document outcomes and inform methods for future mainstem reforestation. All river mile designations are for the Willamette River, unless otherwise noted.
   
Project/Grantee​ ​County
River Mile
​Description
Green Island
McKenzie River Trust
​Lane County
RM 174
​Restore 195 acres of floodplain, currently in agricultural use. Site challenges include poor soil quality and low shrub survival.
Harkens Lake
Greenbelt Land Trust
​BentonCounty
RM 154
​Restore 70 acres to forest and prairie. Site challenges include invasives plants, frequent inundation, poor soil quality, and trespassing.
Half Moon Bend
Benton SWCD
​Benton County
RM 127
​Restore a 27-acre abandoned agricultural field. Site challenges include annual flooding, poor soil quality, and invasive plants
Horseshoe Lake
Greenbelt Land Trust
​Benton CountyRM 125 ​Restore 50 acres of cropland to forest and prairie. Site challenges include access during high water conditions, poor soil quality, and invasive plants.
Cox Creek
Calapooia WC
​Linn County
RM 118
​Restore native plant communities on 16 acres. Site challenges include the presence of fill material throughout the site and invasive plants.
Luckiamute Landing
Luckiamute WC
​Polk County
RM 109
​Restore 80 acres of floodplain forest in partnership with OPRD. Site challenges include difficult site access, invasive plants, and herbivory.
  

Restoration – Floodplain Reconnection/Channel Complexity
The projects shown below are representative of mainstem floodplain reconnection and channel complexity projects. Some may even have riparian reforestation associated with them. All river mile designations are for the Willamette River, unless otherwise noted.  

Project/Grantee​ ​County
River Mile
​Description
Stephens Creek Confluence
City of Portland
​Multnomah County
RM 16
Restore the outlet and floodplain of Stephens Creek, located on the west side of the Willamette River between the Sellwood and Ross Island bridges in Portland.
​​Tryon Creek Confluence
City of Portland
​Multnomah County
RM 27
​Enhance off-channel habitat for ESA-listed salmonids and other native fish species at the Tryon Creek confluence, located on the west side of the Willamette River near the jurisdictional boundary of the Cities of Lake Oswego and Portland.
Cox Creek Confluence
Calapooia Watershed Council
​Linn County
RM 118
​Remove a fish passage barrier (dam) near the mouth of Cox Creek in Albany and revegetate 11 acres. The project has opened 1,200 feet of side channel to Chinook salmon and steelhead.
​​Harkens Lake Restoration
Greenbelt Land Trust
​Benton County
RM 153-154
​Increase flood storage capacity by reconnecting 2.6 miles of lateral channel on the floodplain and buffer adjacent agricultural lands from the impacts of increased seasonal flooding. This site supports Chinook salmon, cutthroat and rainbow trout, and Pacific lamprey.
Willamette Confluence
The Nature Conservancy
Lane County
RM 4 (Middle Fork)
​Restore and reconnect 304 acres of floodplain and 4 miles of main and side-channel habitat on the fee title Willamette Confluence acquisition southeast of Eugene/Springfield. This site supports Chinook salmon, cutthroat and rainbow trout, Pacific lamprey, and Oregon chub.
Green Island Channel Restoration
McKenzie River Trust
Lane County
RM 174
​Restore abandoned gravel ponds, construct a side channel, and increase hydrologic dynamism across the 56-acre CARP fee title acquisition adjacent to the Green Island fee title acquisition, northwest of Coburg. This reach of the Willamette supports the highest abundances of juvenile Spring Chinook salmon for longer periods than for almost any other reach of the river.

 

  

 Model Watershed Outcomes

  • Enhance riparian corridors and floodplains
  • Enhance in-stream habitat
  • Enhance flow and water quality

Model Watershed outcomes are achieved through a range of project types that include:  exclusion fencing for livestock, invasive species control, riparian revegetation, habitat support for beaver re-establishment, culvert/barrier removal, large wood placement, and alcove and side channel re-opening. All work is accomplished with willing landowners and cooperating public land management agencies.


OWEB’s Willamette SIP funds support Model Watershed riparian restoration activities.

 

This includes streamside treatment of invasive plants (e.g., reed canary grass, Himalayan blackberry, and false brome, streamside planting of native beneficial species (e.g., snowberry, willows, red osier dogwood), and streamside fencing.

 

Since 2008, Willamette SIP funds have been used by the five Model Watersheds to work with 1,200 willing landowners to treat roughly 100 miles of riparian areas (about 800 acres), plant more than 50 miles of riparian areas (about 400 acres), and fence 15 miles of stream.

 

Landowners have been impressed by the cessation of riverbank erosion and the marked improvement of water quality and fish habitat.


 

Core Funders
In addition to OWEB, core funding partners include Meyer Memorial Trust (MMT) and Bonneville Power Administration (BPA). OWEB and MMT fund both Mainstem and Model Watershed projects and BPA funds Mainstem projects only.   MMT has been instrumental in increasing the capacity of local land trusts and watershed councils.
 
MMT’s Willamette River Initiative, adopted in 2008, is focused on roughly the same target geographies and the same ecological objectives as the Willamette SIP.  In addition, MMT provides an annual grant to the Bonneville Environmental Foundation to provide program guidance and operations support to the Model Watershed Program.
 
BPA’s funding interests derive from its obligation to fund the restoration of listed fish species (principally, Upper Willamette River Chinook, Upper Willamette River steelhead, bull trout, and Oregon chub) and wildlife habitat under the Willamette Project Biological Opinion. BPA works with OWEB to coordinate funding for Willamette SIP restoration and acquisition projects.
 
Core Implementers
To date, key implementing partners have included:
  • Land trusts: The Nature Conservancy, McKenzie River Trust, and Greenbelt Land Trust
  • Watershed councils:  Calapooia, Long Tom, Luckiamute, Marys, McKenzie, Middle Fork, North Santiam, and South Santiam
  • Local governments:  Cities of Albany, Salem, and Portland; Metro
  • Other non-profits:  Benton Soil and Water Conservation District, Friends of Buford Park/Mt. Pisgah, Willamette Riverkeeper
  • Faculty and staff of Oregon State University and the University of Oregon
  • State and federal natural resource agencies, including the US Geological Survey
Participating agency partners in the Willamette SIP include the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department, Department of State Lands, and Department of Geology and Mineral Industries  all of which manage lands along the mainstem Willamette. The Department of Environmental Quality is another key state partner interested in the potential for mainstem water quality/quantity improvements. The US Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration both issued the biological opinions on the listed fish species and so have an interest in Willamette SIP activities, as does the US Army Corps of Engineers, which regulates the 13 multipurpose dams in the Willamette Valley.
 
Staff Contact
Wendy Hudson, Partnerships Coordinator, 503.986.0061; wendy.hudson@state.or.us.