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AboutWork in Oregon's Wetlands and Waters

Oregon has approximately 1.4 million acres of wetlands, more than 100,000 miles of rivers and streams, 360 miles of coastline, and thousands of lakes, ponds, and reservoirs.
The Department of State Lands regulates work that removes or fills material within these wetlands and waters, enforcing Oregon’s removal-fill and wetland conservation laws and reducing impacts to these valuable resources.
Wetlands and waters provide essential benefits to humans and the environment – they reduce flooding, keep water clean, provide important habitat, and support recreation. However, land development has changed Oregon’s landscape, eliminating and degrading wetlands and waters. It is estimated Oregon has lost 38 percent of its wetlands.
Oregon’s goal is to have zero net loss of wetlands and waters. By evaluating projects and guiding applicants through options that avoid, reduce, or compensate for impacts to these resources, DSL helps ensure they can continue to be healthy and benefit surrounding communities, supporting Oregonians for years to come.

Oregon’s wetlands are highly diverse and can be found throughout the state. In the Willamette Valley, floodplain sloughs temporarily store flood waters, reducing peak flows downstream. The vast Klamath Basin marshes — dubbed the “Everglades of the West” — support millions of migratory waterfowl. Along the coast, estuaries and tidal rivers feed, shelter, and act as a nursery for Dungeness crabs, oysters, and salmon – supporting coastal economies. And vernal pools fill in the rainy season and dry in the summer heat – supporting unique plants and animals that have evolved to survive that cycle.

While wetlands may take many forms, they all provide essential human and environmental benefits that make them important to conserve.
Wetlands protect communities during storms
Many wetlands absorb and temporarily store stormwater flows, reducing damage caused by flooding and streambank erosion. Once the storms are over, the stored water is slowly released back to the stream or into the ground, helping recharge water sources during hot, dry summers, when water is most needed.
Wetlands help remove pollutants and chemicals from water
Wetlands support clean water by intercepting and filtering runoff from agricultural fields and roads. They are highly effective at removing nitrogen and phosphorous (two main ingredients of fertilizers), some chemicals, heavy metals, and other pollutants from water.
Wetlands provide important fish and wildlife habitat
A variety of fish, birds, mammals, amphibians, insects, and plant life – including rare and endangered species – depend on wetlands to feed, shelter, and raise their young. In this way, the presence of wetlands helps support industries. For example, estuaries support two-thirds of commercially important fish and shellfish species.
Wetlands support recreation and human connections with nature
Fishing, hunting, plant identification, and wildlife observation are some of the ways humans can enjoy wetlands. Many wetlands offer a peaceful escape, and some are quite aesthetically pleasing – offering views of wildflowers, waterfowl, and other animals at varying times of the year. Finally, many wetlands are visited for education and research.

​Oregon’s waters include streams, rivers, lakes, and the three-mile section of ocean off the coast known as the territorial sea​. Some of these waters exist year-round, while others are intermittent or ephemeral, only flowing during certain times of the year or following rainfall. They provide numerous benefits:
Waters hydrate communities
About 80 percent of Oregonians get their drinking water from public water systems that tap into the state’s public water systems, which are fed by a myriad of rivers, lakes, and reservoirs.   
Waters nourish economies
From salmon that spawn in Oregon’s rivers and streams – to potatoes and onions grown in Malheur County – to commercial vessels that deliver goods on the Columbia and Willamette rivers -- Oregon’s waters are an essential part of our state’s economy.
Waters also support the state’s power grid. Hydroelectric power accounts for 50% of the state’s electricity generated.
Waters support wildlife and habitats
Fish, birds, mammals, amphibians, and other species rely on the state’s water for hydration, food, and shelter. Protected fish species, like salmon, spawn in waters and use them as a nursery.

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