We will be highlighting some of the promising work being done towards a more sustainable future for all of us. These projects cannot singularly save the Basin, and there are definitely not enough of them--yet. But they are the beginnings of a total, holistic approach that is needed. We can look to the people and ideas behind these efforts for inspiration. Let's build on these ideas and create a future where we work together to solve problems instead of looking for someone to blame. Let's look for more ways to restore water quality and create drought resiliency instead of fighting over who gets the last drops of a diminishing supply.
Check this page often for stories and updates as restoration work ramps up in the Klamath Basin.
– Loree Johnson
Water is What We All Need
-by Mary Williams Hyde, September 2023
“Do the best you can until you know better. Then, when you know better, do better.” – Maya Angelou
"Every year we try to predict the amount of water that is going to be going to the lake. But we are always way under or way over predictions vs. actual. This creates chaos for everyone. A system functioning properly would be more predictable. Work we are doing will make our ecosystem more sustainable.” -Brad Parrish
Dry Creek pre implementation showing extremely unstable banks and little to no fine sediment within channel itself.
-Photo courtesy of Ambodat Department
Dry Creek post implementation showing capture of fine sediment and increased hyporheic exchange.
-Photo courtesy of Ambodat Department
Restoring these damaged tributary streams and floodplains would result in more predictable supplies of water for all users downstream, and also healthier forests, fisheries, ranch and farmlands in the entire basin.
A Really Big Idea
-by Loree Johnson
If the Lower Klamath wetlands can be restored to a more natural state, waterbirds and migratory waterfowl would have an estimated 11,000 acres of feeding and nesting habitat, endangered sucker fish would have spawning habitat, and endangered salmon could potentially have river-adjacent sanctuary. Possible benefits could also include aquifer re-charging and increased evaporation/precipitation cycles.
-by Loree Johnson and Mary Williams Hyde
Terns, geese, ducks, gulls and great egrets thriving at the Lakeside Farms permanent wetland.
-Photo by Mary Williams Hyde
When I first read about this project, in 2021, I thought it was mostly about the fish because that's how it was reported. But having seen it first-hand, it became obvious that there is much more going on here. The fish are just one aspect of a much more comprehensive restoration. This farm could serve as a model for what can be done to address many of the issues facing the Klamath Basin.
Reconnection + Renewal
An oxbow restoration on a tribally held easement on a working Sycan River ranch is a glimpse into a brighter future in the Klamath Basin.
June 27, 2023
Will Natividad, Imagine Mapz LLC.
"People wanted to be able to develop and farm and ranch and use the land as much as possible. When you do that, you start levying everything off so it doesn’t flood—you don’t want your crops or your house to get flooded. But because of that, water’s got nowhere to go. It can’t get out and flood the landscape like it should. If you want that functionality back, the only way to do that is to undo some of that previous work." -Brian Marker, Ducks Unlimited
Historic funding from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law builds on proven projects, expands partnerships, and develops sustainable solutions for the Klamath Basin. -Aug 23, 2022
Klamath River estuary and mouth at Pacific Ocean. Credit: Jennifer Silveira/USFWS
Over the past 20 years, the Klamath Basin has met unprecedented challenges due to ongoing drought conditions, limited water supply and diverse needs. The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, signed by President Biden in November 2021, made an historic investment in the Klamath Basin. Over the next five years, a total of $162 million will be allocated for Klamath Basin restoration projects. As drought conditions persist throughout the region, the Klamath Basin’s fragile ecosystem will depend on collaborative partnerships among a wide variety of stakeholders and the development of holistic solutions.
In March, the Service began soliciting year one project proposals from Tribes, local and state agencies, non-governmental organizations, and other conservation partners. The Service received over 80 proposals and will continue to work with partners who are committed to finding long-term, collaborative solutions for the basin and its communities as the remaining funds are allocated in coming years.
In addition to the projects selected for year one Klamath Basin funding, the Service is providing $10 million for the expansion of the Klamath Falls National Fish Hatchery. The Hatchery works to enhance captive-rearing of Endangered Species Act-listed suckers that hold deep cultural significance for the Klamath Tribes.
Massive wetland restoration project in the works for Upper Klamath Lake
Dec 18, 2021
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is evaluating a major restoration project on the shore of Upper Klamath Lake that could benefit species both above and below the water’s surface. If carried out, it would be the largest wetland restoration effort ever attempted for Upper Klamath Lake.
According to a draft environmental assessment released this summer, the USFWS hopes to breach levees that currently separate the Barnes and Agency Lake units of Upper Klamath National Wildlife Refuge from the western shore of Agency Lake, the northern arm of Upper Klamath Lake. Doing so would reconnect and restore more than 14,000 acres of historic fringe wetlands back to the lake.
Originally diked and drained by the Bureau of Reclamation beginning in the 1940s, the wetlands that became Barnes and Agency Lake ranches hosted grazing cattle during summer and pumped water to flood-irrigate pasture in winter. Fourmile and Sevenmile creeks, which originally flowed into the lake through the wetlands, were channelized and funneled into canals bordering the current property.
Beaver Dams Help Wildfire-Ravaged Ecosystems Recover Long after Flames Subside
By Isobel Whitcomb on February 7, 2022
Oregon endured the third-largest wildfire in its recorded history last summer. The Bootleg Fire tore through the Upper Klamath Basin, an ecologically sensitive area that is home to multiple threatened and endangered species including the northern spotted owl and two fish—the koptu and c’waam (shortnose sucker and Lost River sucker)—that are culturally vital to the area’s Klamath Tribes. The fire left behind a charred landscape more than twice the size of New York City.
After the local fire season ended in autumn, Bill Tinniswood, a fisheries biologist with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, went out to survey the damage. Ash from the fire, which burned for more than a month, had clogged formerly pristine tributaries and turned them into black slurries. Thriving trout populations had disappeared, presumably choked to death by waterborne debris particles that deprived the fish of oxygen. “I was in total shock,” Tinniswood said. “It just looked like devastation.”
Then Tinniswood and his team stumbled upon something even more surprising, and somewhat encouraging: roughly five acres of pristine greenery amid an otherwise burned-out area along Dixon Creek, a tributary in the Sprague River watershed. At the center were roughly eight active beaver dams. But this was more than a refuge from fire, which hundreds of beaver dams are known to have afforded to other riparian areas. Whereas fish seemed to have disappeared upstream of the Dixon Creek dam site, the downstream water was crystal clear—and trout were thriving as though the fire had never happened. The dams and ponds appeared to have altered the hydrology of the landscape around them, Tinniswood says. The beavers had effectively built something like a water treatment plant that staved off fire-related contamination.