Bear Creek Watershed
RVCOG has monitored water quality in the Bear Creek Watershed since the 1960s. The monitoring program was initially developed to help the cities of Medford, Phoenix, Ashland, Talent, Central Point, Jacksonville, and Jackson County identify what kinds of pollutants (if any) were causing problems in local waters. The program was expanded in 1992 and in 1996, in response to water quality concerns and Clean Water Act Regulations (TMDLs - Total Maximum Daily Loads).
The monitoring program is divided into four main elements: Routine Stream Monitoring, TMDL Monitoring, Storm Drain Monitoring, and Hot Spot Monitoring.
The purpose of the routine monitoring is to analyze baseline water quality on the mainstem of Bear Creek. TMDL monitoring evaluates tributary contributions of pollutants into Bear Creek, and the storm drain monitoring evaluates the pollutant contributions of the local storm drains to Bear Creek. The last portion of the program, hot spot monitoring, investigates reported "hot spots" or acute incidents of pollution to local waters. Hot spots are identified through the monitoring of Bear Creek and its tributaries and by reports from agencies, watershed groups, municipalities, and concerned citizens.
Bacterial Source Tracking
Bacteria exceedences and the closure of popular wading areas is a reoccurring problem in the Bear Creek watershed. A need exists for a method that allows for identification of the underlying source of bacteria (human versus animal). Identifying these sources (sourcing) is important due to the number of potential inputs of bacteria (including wild animals, storm drains, pet waste, agricultural return flows, leaking septic systems, illegal R.V. dumping, and sewer cross connections) and for targeting management efforts to clean up local creeks.
RVCOG conducted a Bacterial Source Tracking (BST) Pilot Study in 2004 and 2005 to identify the underlying source of bacterial pollution to be identified. The report below summarizes results of the study.
Bacterial Source Tracking Pilot Study
Grants Pass Monitoring
RVCOG monitored six tributary streams and the Rogue River in Grants Pass from 2003 to 2005. The purpose of this monitoring program was to evaluate baseline water quality in the Grants Pass urban area, and to identify: 1) tributary loading of pollutants to the Rogue River, 2) what the pollutant levels indicate about overall watershed health, and 3) how the water quality is changing over time. Information on the project can be accessed by clicking on the link below.
RVCOG is leading an effort to develop a plan for conservation of vernal pool wetlands in a widespread area of Jackson County. Many of the vernal pools lie in the Bear Creek watershed. Vernal pools contain two rare plants and a rare animal, the fairy shrimp, which is listed as threatened under the federal Endangered Species Act. The conservation plan will provide greater regulatory certainty for landowners, and effective conservation of these important natural features.
For more information about vernal pools and the Agate Desert Vernal Pools Project, click here.
RVCOG helped form the Bear Creek Watershed Education Partners (BCWEP) a non-profit organization consisting of local educators and interested citizens. BCWEP sponsors the Bear Creek Clean-Up every year, an annual education symposium, and provides year-round support for environmental education. The Natural Resources department also collaborates with a number of other educational organizations including the Jefferson Nature Center, Scienceworks, North Mountain Park, and the Healthy Waters Institute.
The Natural Resources Department initiated a program to restore riparian areas on both public and private land in the Bear Creek watershed using native species in 2003. Projects are currently underway emphasizing restoring native plants and managing noxious weeds.
Stormwater Management in the Bear Creek Watershed
Communities in the Bear Creek Valley are implementing stormwater management programs over the next five years to comply with Clean Water Act Regulations. The regulations, NPDES Phase II, require the communities to develop and implement programs to manage stormwater by meeting six minimum control measures:
Public Education and Outreach
- Stormwater Education and Outreach
- Stormwater Public Involvement and Participation
- Illicit Discharge Detection and Elimination
- Construction Site Stormwater Runoff Control (Erosion Prevention and Sediment Control)
- Post-Construction Runoff Control
- Pollution Prevention in Municipal Operations
The Rogue Valley Council of Governments is helping develop the public education and outreach components and beginning program implementation.
Program implementation has included facilitiating meetings of the Regional Phase II Stormwater Team, development and distribution of educational materials, presentation to City Councils, media outreach, and conducting regional open houses. To obtain copies of educational materials or for more information contact Greg Stabach, Natural Resources Project Manager, (541) 664-6674.
Click logo to find out more information on what local communities are doing to manage stormwater.
Stream and Wetland Enhancement Guide
Watershed Assessment and Action Plans
RVCOG, the City of Gold Hill and their partners removed the Gold Hill Dam from the Rogue River in Summer 2008 with funding from the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board (OWEB) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries Open Rivers Initiative.
Prior to dam removal, RVCOG worked with Gold Hill to relocate their municipal water supply intake. This allowed the dam to be removed without endangering the City's water supply. The Natural Resources Department is working with Jackson County and others to determine the feasibility of removing Gold Rey Dam from the Rogue River, and will be contributing to riparian restoration upstream of the Savage Rapids Dam after its removal in Summer 2009.
In 1998, RVCOG worked with the Medford Urban Renewal Agency, the Bear Creek Watershed Council and others to remove the Jackson Street Dam on Bear Creek in downtown Medford. RVCOG has also begun work with the City of Jacksonville to analyze options for the old Jacksonville Reservoir Dam. The reservoir is almost entirely filled with sediment, and the spillway is threatened by erosion. RVCOG is also working with the City of Gold Hill to breach or remove the associated diversion dam on the Rogue River.
Elimination of fish passage problems.
RVCOG has worked with local jurisdictions, the Bureau of Reclamation and irrigation districts on planning to alleviate several fish passage problems related to irrigation diversions and road culverts in the Bear Creek watershed – on Neil Creek, Jackson Creek, Griffin Creek, and on the mainstem.
J. Herbert Stone Nursery.
The Natural Resources Department worked with the US Forest Service, irrigation districts, and local schools to design and construct a three-acre wetland at the Forest Service nursery. The wetland provides wildlife habitat and filters pollutants from irrigation and stormwater runoff before it enters Jackson Creek. It also provides educational opportunities for students. Monitoring of the wetland and its effectiveness in filtering pollutants is currently underway.
Bear Creek Greenway Management Plan
The Greenway Management Plan, which is an “operations and maintenance” plan was completed in July 2005. This plan describes the day-to-day as well as annual maintenance needed to maintain the Greenway to an acceptable standard throughout its length in Jackson County and cities in the Bear Creek valley. A plan for coordinated management will ensure that the Greenway is maintained to the same standard across all jurisdictional boundaries. This will encourage use of the Greenway as a transportation corridor, increase safety, and allow jurisdictions to share equipment and personnel.
Bear Creek Greenway Map