DALLAS -- The Rickreall Creek Watershed, which provides the city of Dallas with its sole source of water, has 364 timber stands within its expanse. Thanks to a comprehensive watershed analysis, the city knows the streams, plants and wildlife that may inhabit those areas.
Even better, now the city has the information it needs to protect the watershed and improve water quality in the future.
"This (report) has a tremendous amount of very detailed, excellent information," said Fred Braun, the city's engineering and environmental services director. "Every one of those 300-plus stands were looked at on the ground and measured. It's excellent information (when) we want to do a detailed watershed protection plan."
The Dallas City Council commissioned the study in 2010, with the objective of assessing the condition of the watershed, creating a list of natural resources, and developing strategies to better protect the water source. Private timber companies and the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) own most of the land in the watershed.
The study, which analyzed just the land under private ownership, was completed in late 2012 and the results were presented to the council in April.
The field research and analysis was performed by the Polk Soil & Water Conservation District (PSWCD), which donated labor to complete the study. Dallas' portion of the cost was $50,000; of that, $30,000 was provided through a grant from the Oregon Department of Human Services.
PSWCD collected data and analyzed timber, soil conditions, fish and wildlife habitat, streams, invasive plants, recreation opportunities, water quality, fire risk, and historical and cultural resources in the watershed.
Braun said there were several key findings, one of the most critical being the risk of soil erosion in areas bordering Mercer Reservoir.
"That is very useful information for us," Braun said. "It may be that the city will want to acquire those pieces of land to keep them from being clear cut."
If that isn't possible, Braun said the city would want to find a way to work with the landowner to have that area logged sparingly.
Fire danger also is a concern, as the risk of a wildfire in land surrounding the watershed under current conditions is high. Braun said one of the most damaging occurrences in the watershed in the last 25 years was a wildfire in 1987. He said that fire caused a large amount of silt to settle in the reservoir. It's taken more than 25 years for the reservoir to recover.
Overall, though, Braun said the study suggests the land in the watershed has been well-managed, even surpassing federal timber management regulations.
Braun said the study recommended establishing larger stream setbacks, areas where no logging is allowed, and that the city try to purchase the land around the reservoir under high erosion risk. He said the city could seek grants to pay for land purchases or easements.
Braun said city staff is putting together proposals on how to proceed for the council to consider.