Cutting-edge stream restoration: Project on Lower Catherine Creek aims to improve fish habitat

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Story and photos by Lisa McMahan. Lower Catherine Creek gets an upgrade that will benefit fish and farmland, hopefully prompting other streamside landowners to seek out river restoration on their own properties. I love writing stories like this -- going out in the field is the best part of my job as a journalist.


  • THE OBSERVERT U E S D A Y , A U G U S T 9 , 2 0 1 17 5 C E N T S , I S S U E 1 5 7

    S E R V I N G U N I O N A N D WA L L O WA C O U N T I E S S I N C E 1 8 9 6

    L A G R A N D E O B S E R V E R . C O M





    Two sections, 14 pagesLa Grande, Oregon




    MIKE SHEARERCorrespondent

    UNION From the duck races downthe creek to the Main Street dance,Grassroots is a festival that no one shouldmiss, says 2011 Eastern Oregon LivestockShow Queen Celena Hefner.

    Ask a couple dozen Union residentswhat this Grassroots Festival is all about,and youll get at least as many different

    answers. It isexcitement. Itis fun. It is tra-dition. It isenough VFWbarbecue porkribs to get youthrough theday. It isenough coun-try music to getyou throughthe night. Itmay be justenough sillinessto get youthrough thewhole winter. Itis Union pride.

    The annualblow-out willlast all daySaturday withMain Street as

    its core but with tentacles to every corner ofthe city with a city-wide yard sale.

    No, its not like Founders Day on TheSimpsons, and its only a little like NewOrleans Mardi Gras. It is a celebration ofthe uniqueness that is Union.

    Union residents are known frankly asbeing a bit feisty. For example, just drivedown Main and pass a sign on the left usingwords like swindle deploring the potentialwind farm nearby. Drive a little farther andsee on your right a sign that says, SupportAntelope Wind Farm.

    If ever a city needed a day when its resi-dents put aside their differences to cele-brate what they have in common, it isUnion.

    Jerry Matthews, co-organizer of theRemember When Car Show that plays a bigpart in Grassroots, said, The communityhas often been divided on issues and hasnot worked together. But, he adds, the fes-tival gives the business community and thepublic an opportunity to work together toaccomplish a positive goal.

    And its a goal that draws out all of itsresidents and even beckons former resi-dents to a homecoming. It also opens itsarms to all of its neighbors. DonnaBeverage, one of the festival organizers,says, We invite the whole valley to comeand celebrate with us on Saturday, Aug. 13.

    City Councilor Don Voetberg said, Itsan opportunity for everyone who resides inUnion to have a way to show surroundingareas what Union is all about.

    City Councilor Sue Briggs is one ofabout 30 people who was there at the startof Grassroots in 2000. It was more localizedthen, she said.

    See FESTIVAL, 5A

    LISA MCMAHAN | The Observer

    SWEEPING FOR SALMONIDS and other fish, ODFW Fish Biologist Nadine Craft and Bureau of Reclamation student interns James Agren and TessaHanson use electroshock to temporarily stun, capture and record the fish in a portion of Catherine Creek. This section of the river is undergoing restorationto decrease the risk of erosion that harms farmland and fish, including several endangered species.

    Cutting-edge stream restorationLISA MCMAHAN

    The Observer

    This month, Lower CatherineCreek is getting an upgrade thatwill benefit fish and farmland,hopefully prompting other stream-side landowners to seek out riverrestoration on their own properties.

    The Catherine Creek WaterQuality and Fish Habitat

    Improvement Project is funded bythe Oregon WatershedEnhancement Board and spon-sored by the Union Soil and WaterConservation District, DistrictManager Craig Schellsmidt said.

    The initial construction targetsbanks on both sides of LowerCatherine Creek around Rivermile37, just off Miller Lane.

    Its also a cooperative effort

    between landowners SteveLindley owns land on one side ofthe river, and the pasture on theother side belongs to John Sheehy.

    Improving fish habitat is thedriving motive behind the project,and cutting down on erosion isone way to help.

    When soil falls off the banksinto the stream, it tends to fill upredds, or Chinook salmon spawn-

    ing beds, posing serious chal-lenges to adult female Chinooks.

    This is prime migratory,spawning and rearing habitat forendangered spring and summerChinook, Schellsmidt said. Itsall being driven by fish recovery.

    Catherine Creek needs helpprotecting its endangered species,he said.


    Getting down to


    City poised to award contract for rebuilding Riverside pavilion


    Before too long, a newRiverside Park pavilion willbegin to rise on the site of theone that burned down lastFebruary.

    During its regular sessionWednesday, the city councilwill award a contract forrebuilding the beloved struc-ture, which was used forcountless picnics, club meet-ings and community gather-ings throughout its 97-yearlife.

    Aug. 4, two bids sent inanswer to a request for pro-posals were opened. DuringWednesdays meeting, thecouncil will either award thebid outright, or authorize CityManager Robert Strope to

    execute all documents associ-ated with the awarding of thebid. After the bid award isfinalized, construction willbegin.

    According to city staffreports, the pavilion wasinsured, but the policy was forfunctional replacementonly. Since the fire, a commu-nity-wide effort has beenunder way to design and builda new pavilion that meetsmodern needs.

    With added grant funds

    and donations from the com-munity, the city plans to builda pavilion with updated fea-tures, including an improvedkitchen area. Off-site storagefacilities will be built as well.

    The construction project asbid includes the base pavilionand the kitchen as it wasbefore the fire. The kitchenimprovements were includedin the bids as a separate item.

    Moffit Brothers and MikeBecker, the two contractorsanswering the citys requestfor proposals, respectively bid$569,252 and $620,560 for theproject, including the updat-ed kitchen. The bids, accord-ing to staff reports, include acredit amount for lumberdonated by Boise Cascade.

    See PAVILION, 3A

    US stocks riseafter big fall

    NEW YORK (AP) Bargainhunters helped push the Dow backabove 11,000 Tuesday.

    The Dow Jones industrial averagerose 218 points, or 2 percent, to 11,028in early afternoon trading. On Monday,the Dow had its worst day since 2008,plunging 634.76 points as fear coursedthrough global markets.

    "Stocks were cheap heading into thedecline, and they just became cheaper,"said Brian Jacobsen, chief portfoliostrategist for Wells Fargo FundsManagement, which has $228 billion inassets under management. Stock index-es have mostly declined for the last twoweeks. "As a long-term investor, that'swhat I like to see."

    Industries that fell the hardest onMonday were up the most on Tuesday.

    See DOW, 5A

    Observer file photo

    KEEPING A STEADYEYE on the horns, cowgirlMary Brookleigh of Uniondoes her best at ropingone ornery hay bale steerduring activities at a previ-ous Grassroots Festival.

    Project on Lower Catherine Creek aims to improve fish habitat

    Moffit Brothers andMike Becker, the two

    contractors answeringthe citys request for

    proposals, respectivelybid $569,252

    and $620,560 for the project.

    Unions big bashslated Saturday

    Local group strivesto change the waypeople think aboutMEDICAL MARIJUANA



  • Union County Circuit CourtCriminal Dispositions

    Douglas Wayne Piggott, 28:Convicted June 27, after enteringguilty pleas of burglary and criminalmischief. A charge of possession ofa burglary tool or theft device wasdismissed. Sentence: jail, probation,80 hours of community service, notallowed contact with victims, not per-

    mitted weapons, firearms, or danger-ous animals. Ordered to submit torandom blood, breath, saliva, andurine tests, undergo alcohol andsubstance abuse evaluation andpossible treatment, become gainfullyemployed, permit searches andinspections, participate in mentalhealth evaluation and recommendedtreatment, write letters of apology; topay fines (suspended), offense sur-

    charge, supervision fee, restitution,assessments.

    Angelic Leigh Raney, 39:Convicted June 9, after enteringguilty plea of unlawful possessionof methamphetamine. Sentence:jail, probation, not allowed contactwith co-defendant, not permittedweapons, firearms, or dangerous

    animals. Ordered to submit to ran-dom breath and urine tests, under-go alcohol and substance abuseevaluation and possible treatment,become gainfully employed, permitsearches and inspections, partici-pate in mental health evaluationand recommended treatment, pro-vide thumbprint and blood or buccal sample; to pay fine (sus-

    pended), assessments (some suspended).


    The Grande Ronde Riversystem is one of the few river sys-tems in the Northwest that islosing species, Schellsmidt said.Were using this (project) aswhat landowners can do tobring back endangered speciesto Catherine Creek.

    The restoration projectbroke ground last week butnot before they got the fish out.

    The first step is to get thefish out of the work area sowere not killing any more fish,Schellsmidt said.

    To get fish out of harms wayfor the restoration project, theportion of the stream adjacentto the construction zone was iso-lated. ODFW Fish BiologistNadine Craft and studentinterns from the Bureau ofReclamation swept the areausing electroshock to temporari-ly stun the fish in the blocked-off area. The fish were captured,measured and recorded beforethey were released into themain channel.

    ODFW conducted a Chinookwinter habitat study the last twowinters. The results showed sig-nificant numbers of smolts andjuveniles present in Catherine

    Creek.This is an important area,

    Craft said. It helps get the proj-ect more funding andapproval.

    The project aims to slopeback Catherine Creeks banks,some of which loom verticallyabove the stream, to a 3:1 ratio.Lindley Contracting will placewood and boulders in the riverto prevent erosion and otherproblems that come along withhigh water events. Twenty- to 30-foot logs, many with root wadsstill attached, will combine toform six to eight structures thatwill be placed in the river.

    This will improve streamcomplexity and help dissipateenergy that carves out banks,damaging pastures.

    This also acts as flood con-trol in a lot of ways, Schellsmidtsaid of the project.

    ONE OF THE FINAL STEPS ofthe process is planting vegeta-tion willows, alders, grassesand sedges to the banks.

    The plants will allow over-growth, and those that eventual-ly fall in the river will createadditional fish habitat.

    The more wood, the better,Craft said, pointing to the areain which she captured fish. Allthe fish were being brought out

    of that woody area.Although the estimated time-

    frame for this stretch ofCatherine Creek to be restoredis two to three weeks, the entireprocess which includesobtaining permits, doing designwork, evaluation and gainingfunding took much longer.

    Its usually about a two-yearprocess from beginning to end,Schellsmidt said.

    The Upper GrandeRonde/Catherine CreekTributary Assessment, a hydro-logic, geomorphic and physicalhabitat study, was conductedalong 42 miles of the rivers. Theassessment was the joint effort

    of the Confederated Tribes ofthe Umatilla IndianReservation, Union Soil andWater Conservation District, theBureau of Reclamation and theGrande Ronde ModelWatershed.

    Anderson-Perry did thedesign work as well as hydrolog-ic and geomorphic studies,Schellsmidt said.

    Lindleys own company,Lindley Contracting, is carryingout the construction portion ofthe project.

    Its interesting to be thelandowner and the contractor,Lindley said.

    Schellsmidt credits Lindleyand Sheehy for their initiative in

    contacting the Union Soil andWater Conservation District.

    Were helpless without will-ing landowners, Schellsmidtsaid.

    THE PROJECT WILL SERVE asa model to other landownersinterested in restoring their por-tion of land along CatherineCreek.

    Next, construction will movedownstream to the riverbetween John Hefners propertyand Trudy Yeargains property.

    The idea is not to fix a littleplace here, a little place here, alittle place here, Schellsmidtsaid. Its to fix the whole river.

    Without a cooperative effort

    from organizations andlandowners, problems are sim-ply shifted downstream.

    My hope is that well havean open door policy, Lindleysaid of plans to let others seethe changes made to LowerCatherine Creek at his proper-tys edge. This is kind of cut-ting-edge stream restoration sci-ence for this valley.

    Union Soil and WaterConservation District acts as aconduit for interested landown-ers. There are several fundingsources available for future proj-ects, Schellsmidt said.

    For more information, con-tact Schellsmidt at 541-963-1313.

    Send us your favoritehunt, fish photos

    UNION COUNTYThe Observer invites read-

    ers to submit their favoritehunting and fishing photos forits 2011 hunting edition byFriday. On Aug. 19 and 26,The Observer will publish thephotos plus descriptions ofthem.

    Send photos along with thename of the hunter or fisher-man, where and when the ani-mal or fish was taken, meas-urements, any interesting orunusual details about the huntor fishing trip, plus contactinformation.

    Photos may be mailed orbrought to The Observer at1406 Fifth St., or emailed brought to the officewill be returned.

    Yard sale helps familypurchase headstone

    LA GRANDEThe family of Kendal

    Warnock-Reagan is raisingfunds to purchase a headstonefor her by organizing a yardsale Friday and Saturday at1713 Washington Ave. Thesale will be open from 8 3 p.m. each day.

    Donations of items inresellable, good condition maybe dropped off at the addressor call Mandi at 541-786-8674or Diane at 541-786-2917.

    Kendal, 24, lived in

    La Grande and died March 27of leukemia.

    Elgin City Council meets at community center tonight

    ELGINThe Elgin City Council will

    meet at 7 tonight at the com-munity center, not Elgin cityhall. The wrong location wasgiven in a briefly Monday. Apublic comment period will beprovided.

    Senior Inc. to conductfundraiser before lunch Wednesday

    LA GRANDESenior Inc. is organizing a

    cupcake/cookie walk fundrais-er before lunch Wednesday atthe Union County SeniorCenter. The fundraiser shouldbegin at 11:15 a.m.

    Next railroad veteransand employees meetingis in September

    LA GRANDEThe August meeting for

    National Association RailroadVeterans and Employees, setfor Wednesday, has been can-celed.

    The regular meeting sched-ule will resume September:10:30 a.m. the secondWednesday of every month atCook Memorial Library.

    Union Chamber of Commerce meetsThursday evening

    UNIONThe city of Union Chamber

    of Commerce meets at 6 p.m.Thursday at LG Brewskis.Businesses are urged to participate, and communitymembers are welcome toattend to get involved promot-ing Union.

    Cove CommunityAssociation discussesCherry Fair Thursday

    COVEThe next Cove Community

    Association meeting will beginat 7 p.m. Thursday at KimseyCommons on Church Street.Discussion in preparation ofthe Cherry Fair will continue.The public is welcome toattend.

    Dottie Brown and Co.performs Wednesday

    LA GRAN...


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