Action Alert! Speak up for streams in eastern Oregon!

Columbia spotted frog in Big Mosquito timber sale

Dear Friends,

Streams on public lands in eastern Oregon need your help. Please speak up for transparency and tell the Forest Service to submit their stream temperature and sediment data to the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (ODEQ) during the current “Call for Data” which ends June 29th. 

Please email the Forest Service and tell them: “Please ensure that the Forest Service submit its water quality data, such as stream temperature and sediment data, to the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (ODEQ) during ODEQ’s current “Call for Data”.

Please direct your emails to the following Forest Supervisors:
* Steve Beverlin, Malheur National Forest (NF) : sbeverlin@fs.fed.us
* Eric Watrud, Umatilla NF: ewatrud@fs.fed.us 
* Tom Montoya, Wallowa-Whitman NF: tmontoya@fs.fed.us
* Shane Jeffries, Ochoco NF: sjeffries@fs.fed.us
* John Allen, Deschutes NF: jpallen@fs.fed.us

The Forest Supervisors are listed in order of importance for calling, so please contact the individuals at the top of the list if you do not have time to call and/or email everyone.

Big Creek in the Big Mosquito timber sale

The USFS has data showing water quality violations in numerous streams. These violations are often very severe, and limiting or lethal to salmon. However, Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (ODEQ) is not able to track many of these violations as intended by regulatory processes, because the USFS has not been submitting most of their data to ODEQ for many years. Without an accurate listing of which streams are violating water quality standards, it is impossible for either ODEQ or the Forest Service to develop plans to restore streams or address watershed-scale issues. It also makes it very difficult for the public to be informed about or have access to accurate information regarding these issues. ODEQ has a current ‘Call for Data’ period open until June 29th, and has requested that agencies and the public submit water quality data for inclusion onto the state’s Integrated Database and for assessment on inclusion in the 303d list. (The 303d list tracks water quality violations in Oregon, and can trigger work on restoration plans).

Why is this important? Streams on public lands are suffering from widespread degradation. At least 1,240 miles of streams on National Forests in the Blue Mountains are listed as water quality impaired. However, because the Forest Service has repeatedly failed to submit their stream monitoring data to ODEQ, this figure is almost certainly a severe underestimation and fails to accurately encompass the scope of the problem on public lands.
According to state regulatory practices, streams with water quality violations are assessed and may be listed on ODEQ’s “303d list” so that agencies can identify issues and develop plans to address the causes of the water quality impairments. Without an accurate listing of which streams are violating water quality standards, it is impossible for either ODEQ or the Forest Service to develop plans to restore those streams or to address watershed-scale issues.

Cattle trampling and algae in Coxie Creek in the Camp Lick timber sale.

The most common water quality violation in the Blue Mountains is excessively high stream temperature. Many streams on public lands in eastern Oregon support threatened species such as Bull trout and Mid-Columbia River steelhead that require cold, clean water. Top predators such as Bull trout play key roles in stream ecosystems. Unfortunately, Bull trout and Redband trout have already lost much of their historic habitat. Excessive fine sediments in streams are also a serious, widespread, and severely under-reported problem.

During our ongoing research on timber sales, BMBP has found numerous streams that exceed state water quality standards– according to the USFS’s own monitoring data. Some of these streams also exceed temperature threshold for migration, spawning, or lethal limits for aquatic species such as Mid-Columbia River steelhead. Many of these streams are not listed on the ODEQ database because the USFS has not submitted the data they have to ODEQ. Yet, the USFS often cites the absence of streams on the 303d list as part of their rationale for why logging adjacent to some of these same streams will not have significant impacts on water quality– even though their own data reflects stream temperature violations that would almost certainly place these streams on the 303d list.

We are especially concerned that the USFS continues to log vast tracks of public forests, including within streamside corridors (aka “Riparian Habitat Conservation Areas”) without adequate oversight, analysis, or adaptive management. In addition, stream temperature warming and de-watering of streams due to climate change are exacerbating the ecological degradation and loss of habitat caused by logging and livestock grazing.

A faulty culvert under a USFS road that is causing erosion and chronic fine sediment inputs into Trail Creek in the Camp Lick timber sale.

We’ve repeatedly raised these issue with the Forest Service and with the collaborative groups that rubber stamp the USFS’s timber sales. Neither the Forest Service nor the collaborative groups have responded to these issues. Now, we’re asking for your help to pressure the Forest Service to take a step in addressing these issue– help us demand that the USFS make their stream monitoring data public and submit it to ODEQ during the current “Call for Data”. 

You can see a listing of which streams we’ve found in recent timber sales that appear to be breaking state water quality standards but are not in ODEQ’s Integrated Database HERE.

Thank you!

For the Wilds,
Blue Mountains Biodiversity Project