Mid-Coast Integrated Water Management and Implementation Actions
Balancing Water Needs in Oregon's Mid-Coast Region, from Cascade Head to Cape Perpetua
Oregon's Mid-Coast region faces water quality and water quantity challenges that threaten its economy, quality of life, and native fish and wildlife. Although the Mid-Coast receives about 70 inches of rainfall annually, local communities currently struggle to meet water demands throughout the year, but particularly in the summer and fall months.
The Mid-Coast Water Planning Partnership is a collaborative that was created to develop regional sustainable solutions that ensure adequate water supplies for water systems and local industry while supporting healthy fish and wildlife populations. The partnership consists of water providers, community residents, tribes, businesses, nonprofit organizations, federal and state agencies, local governments, landowners, academic institutions, and others. The efforts of our collaborative will help us understand where our water comes from, how it is used, and how we can best work together to manage this valuable resource through water conservation and efficient use, addressing infrastructure needs, and protecting and enhancing ecosystems and source waters.
Oregon's Mid-Coast Region
people and natural resources
Mid-Coast ecosystems include estuaries, beaches, steep mountain slopes, and lowland riparian areas. The nearshore environment is affected by water quality and quantity of streams draining into the ocean. Estuaries provide habitat for fish and wildlife and are an important transition zone for anadromous species (e.g., Salmon) which spend a portion of their life in freshwater and saltwater. Land use management and changes as well as invasive species affect environmental conditions and species in the Mid-Coast. Federally listed species that spend at least a portion of their life cycle in fresh water include 2 fish—Oregon Coast ESU Coho Salmon, Southern DPS American Green Sturgeon—and one plant—Water howellia. In addition , Essential Fish Habitat, which is necessary for spawning, breeding, feeding, or growth, exists for Chinook and Coho Salmon.
There are four federally recognized tribes in the region:
• Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians
• Confederated Tribes of Coos, Lower Umpqua, and Siuslaw Indians
• Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde
• Coquille Indian Tribe
Major land uses include: • private, state, federal and tribal forests • livestock grazing • rural residential development • urban development along Highway 101 The majority of land is zoned for Timber Conservation. 71% of private forestland is industrial forest owned. There are 518 farms, of which 65% are less than 50 acres. Historic land uses include harvest of common food sources, such as whales and sea lions, shellfish, seaweed, huckleberries, venison, eels, and salmon. Salmon remains key in the spiritual and cultural life of the Mid-Coast tribes. Water uses include municipal, domestic, commercial, agriculture, and instream uses (for recreation and fish and wildlife). Permitted groundwater use in the region is minimal and is for municipal use, which occurs primarily along the coast and in coastal towns that support natural resource industries and tourism. Tourism and 2nd home ownership affects water use and water demand during weekends and summer months.
The Coast Range averages 1,500 feet in elevation. Steep slopes and high rainfall increase the potential for soil erosion. The region has been uplifted by tectonic plates converging. The geology does not support large quantities of groundwater. Aquifers have low water yields and poor water storage capacity.
The region has one of the wettest and mildest climates in Oregon. High precipitation (>97 inches) occurs in the NE portions of the Siletz and Alsea watersheds. Most precipitation is rain that falls between November and March. Dry conditions, including drought, occur during the summer. Weather is influenced by ocean currents and atmospheric conditions.
Income is derived primarily from commercial fishing, agriculture, timber, and tourism as well as small businesses, real estate, and public sector employment.
The number of retirees in the region has increased, and the population is aging as births have declined. Lincoln County’s population is expected to increase from 46,560 in 2010 to 56, 245 in 2050. Lincoln County 2nd homeowners accounted for 25% of housing in 2010. Occupancy of 2nd homes is greatest during the summer months, when tourism also peaks.
The natural resource economy includes commercial fishing (40%), agriculture (1%), timber (26%), and tourism (33%). Other ecosystem services draw people to the region for recreation, scenic values, and other benefits.
And the Survey Said . . .
In 2018, the Partnership and Oregon's Kitchen Table engaged with 680 people that work in, live in, own a business in, or often visit Oregon's Mid-Coast region to assess their knowledge, values, and beliefs about water and the future of water in the region. As the Partnership creates and implements a long-term vision for water management in the region, it's important to reflect on the key outcomes of this public engagement process.
Click on image to enlarge
Click on the image above to access a storymap on the drinking water of coastal Oregon by Ecotrust.
Also, check out the River Runner website, which allows you to "Click to drop a raindrop anywhere in the contiguous United States and watch where it ends up."
Mid-Coast Water Resources
Water resources in the Mid-Coast support many beneficial uses, including potable water supply, industry, tourism, fish and wildlife, and irrigated agriculture. The availability of adequate quantity of reliably high quality water is important to all of these uses. Water quality at any given time and place is determined by a complex combination of natural and human factors. In general, water quality in the upper portions of watersheds is affected by historical and current forestry land use practices in the uplands, and by agricultural and rural residential land use practices in the valley floors. Water quality in the lower portions of watersheds is affected by human development in rural and urban areas as well as forestry practices on private and state lands. Water quality can affect both the ecology and economy.
The Mid-Coast has eight major drainage areas, including the Salmon, Siletz Bay-Ocean tributaries, Siletz, Depoe Bay-Ocean tributaries, Yaquina, Beaver Creek-Ocean tributaries, Alsea, and Yachats drainage areas. Streamflow in the Mid-Coast is extremely variable and based on topography, soil conditions, ground cover, forest cover, geology, land use, and precipitation events. Streams in the Mid-Coast have high streamflow during the winter and low streamflow during the summer as a result of seasonal precipitation patterns. Generally, Mid-Coast groundwater is not very productive because of low permeability and low storage capacity of the regional rock formations.
Potable water, wastewater, and stormwater infrastructure systems critical for the health of humans and the economy. The Mid-Coast has 52 potable water providers. Much of the Mid-Coast has aging infrastructure and insufficient revenue to address needed upgrades. Many cities and water districts implement water conservation measures, and nine have water management and conservation plans. A total of 14 entities discharge treated wastewater downstream of potable water intakes - into the Pacific Ocean, Yaquina River and Bay, Siletz River and Bay, Schooner Creek, and Lint Slough.
The Mid-Coast has numerous watersheds that support aquatic and terrestrial habitats. Aquatic habitats, which include rivers, streams, springs, riparian areas, estuaries, wetlands, and lakes, are affected by surface water diversions and water quality limitations. Stream channel simplification and incision, warm stream temperatures, altered streamflow timing and watershed function, excess turbidity at periods of peak streamflow, invasive species, and impairments or barriers to fish passage degrade aquatic habitats in the Mid-Coast region. Species of interest in the region include salmonids, sturgeon, lamprey, and beavers, to name a few. In addition, there are numerous areas of ecological importance in the region, including those important to threatened and endangered species.
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Mid-Coast Water Planning Partnership
Adam Denlinger, General Manager of the Seal Rock Water District & Partnership Convener/Fiscal Agent