Major issues are occurring on the river and in the watershed which will have catastrophic impacts on the river for generations. The Holiday Farm Wildfire of 2020 has burned approx. 25 miles - on both sides of the riverfront. The State of Oregon passed legislation in 2021 which suspends state riparian (wetlands) regulations. Virtually any residential development can now be performed by property owners in the river, on the riverbank or in the flood plain without state inspection or approval. While this action was reportedly done to help fire victims rebuild their homes, we now have two story rental condo's being built at a fevered pace. The natural impressive views of this once beautiful river and being defaced with condo's, fine trimmed lawns and decks hanging over the river. The destruction of the riparian areas on the shoreline is extreme and the worst ever seen.
Lane County has followed the State of Oregon's lead in suspending all restrictions in the county riparian zone (50' from the high-water line) for residential construction. Many of the new fire rebuilds allowed by Lane County are rental houses and condo's - not personal residences - which was the reason for suspending riparian laws. Prior to the fire, it was estimated that only 40% of the native riparianzone remains. With the current acceleration of building in the riparian zone, the ability of the river to sustain water quality is limited. Over 36 formal complaints placed with the State of Oregon and Lane County have had no effect. Water quality is at risk.
FREE THE MCKENZIE
Leaburg Dam is a water diversion dam on the McKenzie River built in 1929 along with two canals with power generating capabilities. Leaburg Dam/canal has been closed for three years due to leaks and a report from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) listing three areas of the energy projects as "High Hazard Potential". It is the position of our organization that the McKenzie River should be free of all dams on the main river. The power projects on the river are aging out and will require increased maintenance every year making power generation not cost effective. Leaburg Dam has become a bridge for local homeowners - a 100-year-old bridge which will need significant upgrades to remain as a bridge. Fish migration is impaired both upstream and downstream. Salmon and Steelhead runs are at record lows. Current EWEB operation of the dam and canals removes up to 75% of the water from the river which effects all biological aspects of the river. Water temperatures exceed the level at which Salmon and Native Trout can survive. Navigation in the de-watered areas is extreme and sometimes impossible. Removal of Leaburg Dam will allow the river to return to its natural streambed and expose a huge area that is now Leaburg Lake. This is an opportunity to expand Lloyd Knox Park into one of the largest parks on the McKenzie River and to connect this park to the Old Fish Hatchery/Discovery Center and existing fish hatchery.
Algae and Pollution
With 175,000 acres of forest burned in the Holiday Farm Wildfire the challenge in the McKenzie Watershed is massive. The threats range from infestation of insects in rotting trees, to pollution from fertilizers and herbicides used in tree farming, to loss of forest and riparian features acting as filters for creeks and streams. Chemicals from tree farming and septic leeching are in the river and detectable. The volume of chemicals needed in tree farming efforts in the watershed plus the leeching of old and new septic systems near the river are increasing the Filamentous and Didymo Algae in the river. Every biological aspect of the river is at risk due to the pollution in the river. And water quality is directly impacted by Algae.
McKenzie Watershed Protective is a conservation organization dedicated to the preservation of the McKenzie River water, native fish and forests. The McKenzie Watershed is a living breathing natural phenomenum in which the water, the fish and the forests are all interdependent.
Once recognized as one of the top cleanest rivers in America, the McKenzie River on the verge of some very negative changes. To address these problems, we use a grassroots approach to collaborations and initiatives engaging in preservation, restoration, legal enforcement, and lobbying through community alliance. We strongly support holding government agencies accountable for enforcing existing laws.
McKenzie Watershed Protective is currently engaged in the preservation of the McKenzie River in Western Oregon, which is the drinking water source for 200,000 people in Eugene.
As a "watchdog organization" we have filed over 40 County, State and Federal violations on the McKenzie River. This is a mere fraction of current violations.
"Save the McKenzie" is not a slogan, it is a plea as the McKenzie River is DYING from riparian destruction, algae and aquatic invasive plants, unbridled development and loss of water quality. There are currently 15 government agencies with legal responsibilities on the McKenzie.
Nationally recognized as a premier fly fishing river, the McKenzie River native fish management plan -- well, there isn't one. See our proposal below.
We are here to help educate all stakeholders in this effort. Whether you are a river user, property owner or governmment agency, we are here to help you understand the consequences of inaction and what you can do to help.
Every action and effort we make is done with this simple mantra: "Doing What is Best for the River". Whether you help through donations, volunteering your time, or educating others, thank you!
We couldn't accomplish our goals without the help of supporters like you. Are you passionate about what we're doing? Let us know! We are always looking for volunteers to help us make our vision a reality. You can be the "eyes and ears" of the McKenzie River. We are currently photgraphing the entire 90 miles of river frontage for riparian zone violations.
What was once a top cleanest river in America, the McKenzie is in serious trouble. The signs are clear to those willing to look at the evidence: Invasive aquatic plants, algae growth, bacteria counts, and riparian destruction are shocking to those in the know. LESS THAN HALF OF THE RIPARIAN ZONE ON THE ENTIRE RIVER EXISTS TODAY.
This river supports the city of Eugene with drinking water and "Water is Life".
The McKenzie River supports a multi-million dollar fishing and recreation industry which is threatened by the ongoing river conditions.
We are currently meeting with a number of government agencies to bring about significant enforcement of riparian laws.
See Lane County Riparian Code below.
Before the Dams were built on the McKenzie, around 1950, the limit on Native Trout was 100 per day. Today, the limit on Native Trout is zero. The largest population of Native Trout is located above and below the reach of the Dams. Why?
Before the Dams, over 100,000 Chinook Salmon migrated from the Columbia River up the McKenzie. In the last 10 years the Salmon return has been a few thousand which are mainly hatchery raised fish. Why?
The lack of a native fish management plan on the McKenzie River is incomprehensible.
We are developing a Native Fish Management Proposal for ODFW to be presented soon. Get involved. Your comments are welcome. See draft proposal below
The forests surrounding the McKenzie Watershed are nothing short of amazing! We need our forests to be managed for the long term and future generations. As recent fire events demonstrate, forests must be managed to be healthy and sustainable. Forests are crops that require a human generation to grow and harvest. If the crops are rotated and cared for then healthy forests are the result. There is room in this plan for Old Growth trees as well, but in proportion to the over all forest.
While we greatly appriciate our forest products industries, we must have sustainable forest practices in the watershed. Forest practices such as arial spraying of pesticides, herbicides and fertilizer in the watershed must change.
We are committed to help offset cost differences in changing forest practices by working with County, State and Federal Agencies with tax credits or land swaps, for example.
Documents relating to McKenzie River restoration:
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