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There is a local phenomenon called “the Chetco effect” which occurs when warm inland air blows down the Chetco River to the City of Brookings, warming up the temperature. Water resources in the area include: Pacific Ocean, Chetco River, numerous creeks and drainways, and the Ferry Creek Reservoir. Some issues related to water include water safety, fishing regulations, invasive species, drought, unusual high tides, and flooding.

What people are talking about

The Lower Rogue River watershed in Curry County, Oregon is on 354 miles of land near Gold Beach on the coast. The watershed sees 53 inches of rain on average each year and is home to the Chinook and Coho salmon and many varieties of dace, sturgeon, trout, and lamprey. The Lower Rogue River is 75% publicly owned.

Boil orders
The City of Brookings issued a drinking water warning for residents of the Marina Heights area in May 2020, asking residents to boil the water before using it or to use bottled water. Due to the loss of water pressure in the Pac View Water Reservoir, potentially harmful bacteria could be present in the water supply. This bacteria can make anyone sick, but people with weakened immune systems are more vulnerable. Boiled or bottled water should be used for drinking, brushing teeth, washing fruits and vegetables, preparing food and baby formula, making ice, and cleaning food contact surfaces. The Public Works Department was working to repair the problem, and water testing will have to be conducted before the water is deemed safe to drink again.

Should steelhead harvesting be restricted?
Restricting harvesting of wild winter steelhead was partitioned by five fishermen to the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission (ODFW) to make a temporary rule change restricting all harvesting of wild winter steelhead in the Oregon Southwest Zone, effective with the 2020 season. In August 2018, a previous proposal was denied but did lower the harvest limit from five per year to three. The arguments supporting the restriction include low population forecasts and poor ocean conditions, increased angling opportunities since fish that are caught and then released can be caught multiple times, harvesting wild steelhead removes large steelhead from the river, and gene pool, steelhead fishing has been really tough, with drought and ocean conditions resulting in a perceived decline with lower than normal returns and reduced catch rates over the last couple of years, and the Native Fish Society asked to “err on the side of caution” because there is not enough data to provide high confidence that “the current fishery is not overharvesting wild fish. On the other hand, local fishermen are opposed to changing the current rule, there are no ‘low population forecasts’ for wild winter steelhead for 2019-20,” and that those forecasts were for a portion of fall Chinook only, steelhead spawn in conditions of high cold water and can access more habitat more easily, and they are the most viable and adaptable salmonid in all of North America, steelhead are ‘the fish of a thousand casts. Therefore, they are always tough to catch. Oregon South Coast Fishermen reportedly has collected more than 600 signatures supporting the current rules, and the Salmon Trout Enhancement Program (STEP) organizations have enhanced habitat on the south coast streams by planning, securing funding, and successfully completing many habitat projects over the years. 

The Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife (ODFW) recommended denying the petition and stated that a conservation plan is already under development. Existing regulations provide limited opportunities for harvest; of about 5,800 miles of adult steelhead habitat in the Southwest Zone, only 7% (405 miles) are open to wild harvest. Data from angling tags indicate that few anglers actually harvest up to the annual limits. Steelhead populations in the Southwest Zone are limited by environmental conditions, not harvest. Factors such as passage, sedimentation, in-stream structure, and water quantity and quality (temperature) affect populations more than harvest. The ODFW report also states that eliminating wild steelhead harvest is unlikely to result in larger fish in the Rogue River.

Drought impacts on fishing livelihoods
Severe low water has caused several boat groundings during the first week of August 2020. Rocks or large stumps are exposed or just below the surface where generally there has been adequate water to navigate. The Marine Board has been working with marine law enforcement partners to mark areas of increased safety risk.

Aquatic invasive species
New Oregon statutes require boaters to “Pull the Plug” and “Clean-Drain-Dry” boating equipment to stop the spread of invasive aquatic species. The fines for not complying go from $3 (non-motorized boats) to $50 (motorized boaters). Law enforcement officers can order a person back to an aquatic species boat inspection station, like the one in Brookings. Failure to return to the inspection station for decontamination can result in a Class C misdemeanor ($1,250 fine and/or 30 days in jail). Inspecting boats is the first line of defense in keeping aquatic invasive species such as zebra or quagga mussels, snails and aquatic plants out of Oregon. These invaders can cost millions in damage to water delivery systems and serious environmental damage to rivers, lakes and native aquatic species. So far, none have been detected on boats inspected at Brookings.

Riparian invasive weeds can increase wildfire danger
Likewise, the Curry Watersheds Partnership wants to raise the public’s awareness about invasive species. For instance, Spanish heath, jubata grass, cape Ivy, and gorse is the most destructive for native habitats, increase wildfire risk, and cause high economic losses for forestry and agriculture, and Japanese and Himalayan Knotweeds tend to be in riparian areas and cause riparian degradation, increased erosion. Some lakes and reservoirs are 30 feet lower than this time last year.

King Tides citizen science
Extreme high tides, commonly called “King Tides,” occur at a few specific times during the year. King Tides can impact the Oregon coast in several ways. High water levels can cause increased erosion on the beaches, which can lead to decreased beach access (smaller beaches), vulnerable structures and infrastructure, and dangerous beach conditions. Additionally, some communities experience coastal flooding from unusually high tides.

The King Tides Project is an international grassroots effort to document coastal areas flooded by the highest tides. In Oregon, it has been developed and coordinated by the Coast Watch Program of the Oregon Shores Conservation Coalition, the Oregon Coastal Management Program, and a branch of the Department of Land Conservation and Development. Oregon's King Tides photos have been used by agencies and researchers to ground important scientific models, which are used to estimate where and how the high waters will impact, helping to build trust in them. This citizen science project aims to encourage Oregonians and visitors to submit photos of the king tides to help track sea level rise over time and reveal its impacts on the Oregon Coast. Flooding and landslides occur because of the cold winters and burn scars prevalent from the 2020 wildfires in Oregon.

You can visit the National Weather Service to find the latest information on weather watches, warnings, or advisories in Oregon. Some additional recommendations are to stay alert and track the flood watch by radio, TV, weather radio, or online; if told to evacuate immediately, travel with extreme caution and have an emergency kit with necessary supplies. The Oregon Office of Emergency Management recommends being 2 Weeks Ready with enough supplies to last at least two weeks. In addition, the Oregon Coastal Management Program (OCMP) is a networked program of coastal cities, counties, and state agencies working to protect Oregon’s estuaries, shorelands, beaches and dunes, and ocean resources. The OCMP supports the implementation of the National Flood Insurance Program, which helps communities protect against the impacts of flooding. Additionally, the Program supports development standards that incorporate the best available science and management practices to protect coastal resources and limit development in hazardous areas. Coast Watch, a non-profit Oregon Shores Conservation Coalition project, organizes hundreds of volunteers who adopt one-mile segments of the Oregon shoreline, monitoring these stretches of coast for both natural changes and human impacts.

Seawall plans
When winter storms send waves crashing onto Sporthaven Beach, and saltwater, sand, and debris are sometimes carried across the roadway above the beach, creating trouble for the sewer system operated by Harbor Sanitary District and creating potential environmental risk. Port Manager Gary Dehlinger said the port engineer has provided calculations and comments on a plan to create a seawall using unsecured concrete blocks to withstand a 1-foot breaking wave.

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