policy & practice
Ensuring Oregon’s rivers, lakes, and oceans stay clean and replenished is no easy task. With centuries-old water rights, civil access, and the health of the ecosystem to consider, navigating these issues does not come without considerable debate. In Oregon, we are striving to reduce our human impact on the ecosystem.
Case Study: Detroit Lake
As we searched through Oregon’s newspapers, we found stories about water rights disputes, industries spilling waste and oil into water systems, the fight against oil drilling off our coast, and an interesting story that paints a perfect picture of the human/nature dichotomy. Detroit Lake. The Army Corps of Engineers is thinking of ways to restore the lake and the Santiam river to help restore the populations of steelhead. Since the 1970’s, dam construction have impacted the salmon population that migrates upriver to spawn - to 0.05% of the original population count. The proposed project to help salmon entails draining Detroit Lake which would potentially disturb the Santiam River. The Santiam River is a popular tourist location driving a healthy economy. Salem also draws their water for municipal distribution from the Santiam. Is there a way to bridge the gap between ensuring a healthy thriving ecosystem and maintaining our human comforts?
Case study: Solutions
City councils and small groups all over Oregon are meeting to discuss solutions to problems like urbanization impact, endangered species, and Detroit Lake project. One beautiful example of a response is the implementation of rain gardens at Lewis and Clark National Historical Park. Rain gardens are designed to absorb stormwater runoff and filter it before it enters waterways. Rain gardens function as marshes and wetlands by creating a place for dirty water to go first. The types of plants introduced in these gardens absorb and break down pollutants and extra nutrients, reducing their impact on the surrounding ecosystems. As one article pointed out, the most appropriate response to reducing ecological impact might be to respond to each individual sites' needs.