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Lincoln County covers an area of 992 square miles and, as of 2022, has a population of 50,813. Lincoln County is known for its beaches, cultural history, and the Oregon Coast Aquarium. Lincoln was and still is the home of the Confederated Tribes of Siletz, as well as other Indigenous tribes such as the Yaquina people. Many of Lincoln county's city names, such as Yachats, Siletz, and Depoe Bay are directly inspired by the Indigenous peoples of this region.

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Hear from a local! Click here to listen to Paul Engelmeyer from Yachats, Oregon. Sanctuary Manager / Conservationist Audubon Society of Portland, interviewed by Elvia Reed

The Schooner Creek Watershed, located on the scenic Oregon Coast, is the main water supply for Lincoln City, a population of 10,134 (Lincoln City, 2022). Lincoln City’s weather is consistently wet and cloudy throughout the year. The rainy period lasts roughly 11 months, bringing in an annual average precipitation of 76.3 inches (Lincoln City, 2021). Many tributaries rush throughout the coastal woods, branching off of Schooner Creek, such as Erickson Creek as well as the North and South Forks of Schooner Creek. Anadromous and game fish species, specifically Northwest salmon and bull trout, migrate up and down the coastal tributaries. Various mammals and reptilians, such as squirrels and salamanders, derive their hydration from Schooner Creek and its side streams (Natural Atlas, 2023). 17.8% of the population is younger than 18, and 29.6% are over the age of 65. 53.3% of all people are biologically or otherwise women. 82.9% of people are white and many of them are retirees who’ve settled in Lincoln City.

Water demand spikes in the summer months due to the use of water outdoors. Locals understand how to minimize their water use, but the visitors and tourists that flock to the coast during the warm weather don’t always know best. 8% of all water flowing through Lincoln City is diverted to publicly supplied industrial uses, 34% going to self-supplied industries. Twenty-nine percent of the water diverted is for self-supplied aquaculture, meaning the user withdrew from groundwater or a surface-water source instead of obtaining it from a public supply. It is estimated that, in total, 31,810,000 gallons of water are diverted daily in Lincoln County (OMCPP, 2022). The Water Treatment Plant, located just off Schooner Creek, removes any harmful contaminants from the publicly accessed water supply. Once the water is treated it is then distributed through approximately 135 miles of underground piping (also known as the Distribution System) to the public, most of it stored in the City’s Reservoir System. This water system serves the needs of roughly 5,000 residential homes and 832 commercial customers. Since Lincoln City is a tourist community the population can swell from a regular daily average of 13,500 to 23,000 on any given weekend afternoon. This means the systems have to be running optimally to accommodate the fluctuating population density. Lincoln City’s 2023 specified water rates are difficult to find online; however, using the context of their meter reading policies and Oregon’s overall statistical estimates for 2023 water rates, it can be said that a typical residential customer pays a monthly utility bill of $122. For the residents of Lincoln City, whose annual cost of living is less than the average nationally and within Oregon, this seems like a reasonable expense. Landslides are the most consistent disaster that cities and towns in coastal Oregon face (OSG, 2023). They destabilize homes located on ridges and can pollute water with all the sediment they carry. Over 3,000 glass treasures, specifically glass floats, handmade by local artisans, are hidden along 7 miles of beach. Participants of the Finders Keepers promotion have all year to discover hidden prizes. Special drawings are held for those who collect beach trash and post them on social media their findings, as a way to incorporate environmentally conscious efforts into day-to-day activities (Explore Lincoln City, 2023).

Algal blooms

Various bodies of water within Lincoln county limits have faced a growing issue in the form of algal blooms. Specifically, elodea canadensis, or Canadian pondweed, has infested Lincoln City’s bodies of water with extensive plant growth and vegetation. Pondweed threatens the accessibility of the lake, as well as putting wildlife at risk for suffocation/paralyzation due to the vegetation’s denseness. Boat motors can become clogged almost immediately after putting out into such overrun waters. Devil’s Lake has faced the most extreme growth, which has prompted officials to request donations from local, lakefront residents so that they can acquire more adept resources to handle the pondweed. There is an agreement between Lincoln county citizens and the local government officials to tackle this problem as a community, as everyone feels attached to Devil’s Lake and wishes to see it flourish. County residents face the decision of acting on their own accord (with the correct legal permits granted) or trusting the local officials with their money (donations) to use effectively to halt the unprecedented pondweed growth. The Devil’s Lake Water Improvement District is utilizing sterilized grass carp to combat the algal blooms; these fish will be able to individually flourish while cleaning up the lake of excess vegetation, all the while not reproducing and causing further clutter (Newport News-Times, 2022). Due to the local environmental consciousness, the use of herbicide is extremely limited and hoped to be avoided altogether, for the betterment of the water body’s ecosystem. Harvesting machinery is also present at Devil’s Lake to battle the overgrown red tide; residents utilize this device to harvest the invasive weeds surrounding their docks and shorelines (Newport News-Times, 2022). Elodea isn’t a seasonal water weed but rather a self-reproducing species that spreads via wind patterns. This intense growth follows three years of record-breaking water quality for Lincoln City.

Lincoln City residents mainly consume surface water, accessible thanks to the Schooner Creek watershed, which has an overall higher possibility of contamination due to wildlife, industrial complexes, and other generalized surface-level happenings (Quality Water Treatment, 2022). The water quality of the Schooner Creek watershed and its tributaries is under suspicion as septic systems and other sewage-related water infrastructure are historically faulty. The river runoff flows directly to the Pacific, endangering the main allure of Oregon’s coastal, tourist-oriented economy. With the prospective beach closures, due to contaminated rivers and seawater, Lincoln City faces a drop in overall profit as the coastal metropolis is heavily reliant on its weekly/annual visitors, who come almost solely to experience the beach and other water bodies. This involves everyone who engages in the capitalist structure of Lincoln City’s economy, from residents to city officials to tourists. There is a consensus that the water quality issue must be rectified (Beach Connection, 2022). Inspections must be carried out along the riverside, to determine if there is any damaged infrastructure, such as underground piping, that could be adding to the contamination.


The Lincoln County City Council has been approving sewer rate increases each year for the past two decades or so. Each household in Lincoln City is paying roughly $700 a year on water bills, even if they aren’t utilizing their water utilities. Despite years and years of taxpayer money being directed to the issue of water quality, Lincoln City still faces consistent pollution of its water supply; therefore, this strategy taken by the council is ineffective (Newport News, 2023). Lincoln City officials, such as the non-paid mayor or council members, all serve four-year terms (LC Chamber, 2021). Due to this political balance, it seems uncertain as to why the issue of correcting all water infrastructure is proving such a lengthy, even difficult, task.

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