The Official Blog of the Mid Klamath Watershed Council (MKWC)

 

Taking Down Walls

Posted by admin on November 28, 2017

by Nancy Bailey

According to Merriam Webster, one of the definitions of a wall is “an extreme or desperate position or a state of defeat, failure, or ruin.” As in the phrase “up against the wall”

I’m sorry to say I feel that this moment in human and planetary history has us pretty clearly up against the wall. I wonder if this condition is actually a result of all the walls we build. Lately all the talk about building more of them and the divisive rhetoric we hear that pushes people apart, I feel it is an important time to speak out against them. There are so many kinds of walls and I have to say I don’t see much good coming out of any of them.

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Unthinking we have built dams in rivers, walling off hundreds of miles of critical habitat for fish and interrupting what should be a dynamic process of fluctuating flows and habitat renewal.

Without full understanding of impacts, we have built highways which wall off and inhibit wildlife from their migration routes. And we have built hundreds of miles of forest roads that result in landslides and sedimentation in the streams effectively also walling off habitat.

We have suppressed wildfire, causing unhealthy and choked forests; walls to the free flow of wildlife and impediments to ecosystem health, which is built on movement and interchange.

Even our attitudes can be walls. We have accepted and promoted cultural and psychological walls between ourselves and nature, believing ourselves superior and in control, allowing for rampant disrespect of the natural world and its processes. Even as we have willingly embraced attitudes of separation from nature, we have fallen prey to historic themes of separation between ourselves and the other, fearing what or who we don’t understand.

Rather than building more walls, now is the time to take them down, one at a time.

 When people ask about my work with MKWC, I say we are in the business of “restoration”. Restoring the Klamath salmon populations, restoring fire to its rightful place in the landscape, restoring native biodiversity in the plant and animal world in the face of threatening invasive species, restoring forest and river and community health and wholeness.  These objectives are for the most part about breaking down walls. Restoration is about connectivity; allowing the natural world to resume its dynamic momentum toward balance and flow.

From rivers to forests, walls must come down. First the Elwha dam in Washington and soon the Klamath dams will go. Eventually many others will be deconstructed, as the outcomes of these early dam removals model and demonstrate the huge benefits to entire ecosystems. Everywhere damaging roads are being decommissioned and put to bed, their benefits having expired in light of their long term negative impacts. Restoration projects of so many types are being implemented here in the Klamath and elsewhere, it is hopeful.

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Right now, shortly after the annual Klamath River Prescribed Fire Training Exchange (TREX), I feel particularly hopeful about fire. We are coming to understand and accept that wildfire management rather than full suppression will help return the process of natural fire to the landscape. We are embracing controlled fire as an important tool as we try to catch up with the deficit created by the hundred years of fire suppression. Fire is coming back, whether we want it or not. It is not an easy task, breaking down a lifetime of prejudice against fire. We are challenged but we can learn. Eventually our forests, rivers, and communities have the chance to recapture their resilience and compatibility with fire.

I believe we are on the right track. I see how groups like MKWC and so many others are working hard to find common ground with neighbors and stakeholders, to work together toward mutual goals of ecosystem and community health and renewal. Communities, states and nations, even our cultural psyche can heal from long histories of fearful wall building between groups of people and between humans and nature.

Certainly, the state of the world including our Klamath watershed demands of us to join together to take down the walls. Can we please refrain from building new ones?

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Nancy Bailey is Co-Director of the Mid Klamath Watershed Council (MKWC) Fire and Fuels Program and a long-time resident and steward of the Middle Klamath subbasin.

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What Can We Learn From Washington?

Posted by admin on August 3, 2017

by Will Harling

This past spring, a contingent of fish habitat restorationists from around the Klamath River went up to Washington State to learn from four decades of salmon habitat restoration on the Olympic Peninsula and around the Puget Sound. We were hosted by Larry Lestelle from Biostream and Rocky Rocovich and Tim Abbe from Natural Systems Design, Inc. Bill Armstrong from the Quinault Tribal Fisheries Program and Mike McHenry from the Lower Elwha Tribal Fisheries Program added a lot to the first two days of the tour. So much learning took place that it's hard to capture, but we wanted to share through photos some of the amazing projects they have going and the lessons learned from them in this post. Partial funding for this tour came from the National Forest Foundation.

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Our first stop on the Quinault River above Quinault Lake where the river was threatening a bunch of homes. A series of log jams and meander jams was pushing the huge river back across the floodplain to river right and making some great fish habitat at the same time.

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An impressive array of engineered log jams on the Quinault River. These lathed log piers are driven 30-40 feet into the substrate to prevent pier scour. These streams on the peninsula were mostly glacially carved, with deep alluvium.

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Larry Lestelle holding court, telling stories from the early days of coho life history construction, and subsequently coho habitat construction to meet specific life history needs. We have followed this model in the Klamath, first on Seiad Creek and the lower Klamath tribs like Hunter Creek, and now in Horse Creek, and the Scott Valley, with great success. But as Tim Abbe points out, this is not fixing stream process, just halting the trend towards extinction. We need to allow streams to reconnect to floodplains where they can so they can form habitats like this on their own. In the meantime, we'll keep building ponds.

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Paradise Pond, one of the original off channel ponds constructed by Jeff Cederholm and Phil Peterson in the early ages of off channel pond construction 30+ years ago. What these guys hit upon was that it is habitat quality , and not quanitity, that depressed fish runs need to recover. If there is not off channel habitat in a stream system, juvenile coho have no where to go in high winter flows and they die. By sprinkling habitats like this throughout a system, you can rapidly reverse the trend toward extinction for coho salmon. This site keyed into a seep coming out of the mountain. They used dynamite to blast some deep holes out of the wetland then built a dam out of rock by hand to impound the water with a cheesy wood fish ladder. It was wildly successful but degraded quickly. Later the channel was re-contoured with an excavator with a meander to lower the gradient and increase fish access.

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These jams still allow fish passage by having a tighter weave for the base and loose construction for the upper half. Logs are placed in an upstream facing chevron pattern that uses the stream force to lock them into place. Toz looks like he's getting some ideas for some streams back home.....

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Bill Armstrong explains how the jams were constructed, while standing on three feet of new deposition on the recently connected floodplain.

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Last year's high water scoured around the rootwad of this anchored wood, forming a sweet pool and bringing gravel into the channel from the banks.

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Hurst Creek, a trib to the Clearwater on the west side of the Olympic Peninsula, was severely incised from a century of industrial logging. The creek itself was the original haul route, causing it to down-cut over 10 feet. Bill Armstrong told a chilling tale of three generations of loggers who told three different tales of this stream. The grandfather remembered it was full of salmon as a child but that the logging didn't kill the runs. The father remembers a few fish in the river that weren't affected by all the wood they removed to keep it from getting out of it's channel. The grandson doesn't remember seeing a fish in the creek. This aggressive wood loading project has reconnected the floodplain in only a couple years. Obviously not right for every stream, but already gravels are sorting, pools are forming, cover has increased many times over.... This is actually a picture looking upstream at three discrete channel spanning jams with 80-150 foot pools between them.

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It can, and will, be done (just as they did here in the Elwha)! Klamath River 2020!!!!

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Mike McHenry, a lifelong champion of fish habitat restoration on the Elwha, gave an amazing tour of his home river. So humbled by the quality of the tour and the knowledge of all the presenters.

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I was not prepared for the incredible feeling of elation and gratitude and awe that came over me seeing a whole river system set free of dams after a century of plunder. The river is healing itself with incredible speed. Already five species of salmon have been found above this upper dam site. They estimate about 2/3rds of the sediment has gone downstream. During dam removal, they used an excavator on a barge with a jackhammer head to take it down slowly, then every now and again, they blew out a large chunk to make a pulse flow and create flood terraces upstream (visible in this picture).

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Glorified rip rap with a high price tag. This structure near the end of the road heading up the Elwha (just downstream of the old Glines Canyon Dam site) protects the road but does little for fish habitat.

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Toz Soto getting excited about dam removal!

 

Upper end of the old Elwha Dam reservoir. You can get an idea of the amount of natural wood in the system here.

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Mitzi George Wickman giving scale to the stump of an old riparian Western Red Cedar at the upper extent of the Elwha Dam (RIP) reservoir. Extensive tree planting and invasive weed removal is ongoing in this newly exposed river channel.

 

A fish biologist that works with the Lower Elwha Tribe monitoring fish runs in the Elwha describes the fisheries benefits of these engineered log jams (ELJ's). They use horizontal projecting sonic cameras to count fish across a large channel just below this site.

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This constriction caused by ELJ's (engineered log jam's) on either side of the channel were used frequently to push the river up onto the floodplain, as its doing here on river right. Cost for these structures is about $70,000 a piece. I came away thinking we need to spend about 10x our current annual restoration budget on the Klamath to actually restore the river processes they are restoring on these rivers.

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Beaver lodge built into the side of a log jam on the Elwha River about five miles up from the estuary.

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Clear Creek on the east side of the Olympic Peninsula was an example of a fish habitat restoration project that also solved a transportation issue. Every year a major street just downstream would flood due to poor water storage and drainage. By reconnecting the floodplain and establishing multiple channels, NSD has kept the road from flooding for the past three years.

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Sediment from the Elwha dam removal effort not only restored the delta at the mouth, it also reconnected far reaching backwater areas in the larger floodplain that hadn't been connected in decades. This is paradise for rearing juveniles preparing to head out into the ocean.

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After two days exploring the wild rivers of the Olympic Peninsula, we took the ferry across to Seattle and civilization. Before you die, go to Ray's Boat House restaurant. I did an animated retelling of Uncle Billy's Bigfoot Hunting mishap story so the Washingtonians got a taste of who they were dealing with.... — with Sarah Bee, Rocco Fiori and Charles Wickman.

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Historically the main channel flowed on the right side of the South Fork Nooksack behind that large log jam where a slack water pool has now formed. The log jam on the left has racked a bunch of wood and subsequently a bunch of spawning gravel upstream that has become a hotspot for spawning salmon. This section of the channel has aggraded over seven feet in four years and connected a two-mile-long side channel or river right above the large log jam.

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Tim Abbe describes how the log trianges are stabilized by boulder and cable "dingleberries" (two boulders with glued in cable connecting them over top of the logs to keep them hinged on pounded log piers. Charlesand Mitzi are standing on top of a buried boulder and you can see the cable insertion behind Tim's feet.

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All for one, one for all! Charles Wickman gets a lift from Toz Soto and Larry Lestelle with help from Rocco Fiori and Tim Abbe across a side channel of the SF Nooksack! Mitzi just walked across in her Levis.....

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Joey Howard from Cascade Stream Solutions, Rocky Rocovich with Natural Systems Design and Rocco Fiori with Fiori GeoSciences, have an engineers huddle at an impressive channel spanning wood structure on the SF Nooksack. Two engineered log jams on either side are connected by grade controlling log triangles (underwater in this pic) stabilized by boulders with cable saddling the logs and short log piers to hold them in place. In a very short amount of time (less than five years) these structures have aggraded this downcutting section and reconnected a huge floodplain. These structures have possible application in the Klamath mainstem above Happy Camp and in the Salmon River in unconstrained channel reaches.

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Toz Soto, Tim Abbe, Nooksack Tribal Fish Biologist, Rocky Rocovich, and Mitzi Wickman on a pile jam on the South Fork Nooksack River. The weather was crappy the whole time but we were electric with inspired fish talk. These jams rack mobile wood, and cost a lot less than jams that use off site wood. This was the jam that was causing the side channel that Mitzi log tight roped across.

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South Fork Nooksack River showing the difference between rip rap (left) and large wood meander jam (right). We are currently facing issues with Siskiyou County Public Works Department with our Seiad Creek stream restoration project because they believe wood bank stabilization projects will rot and fail. The wood gives a chance for trees to grow and becomes the bank stabilization agent. Hopefully these projects will help inform our efforts down here to restore streams that function for fish as well as people.

 

South Fork Nooksack River: Mitzi Wickman uses a beaver felled log to cross a new floodplain braid caused by an engineered log jam upstream that activated a 40 acre floodplain. The beavers were going crazy!

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South Fork Nooksack River showing the use of large wood instead of rock rip rap for bank stabilization. It's hard to see in this picture, but the logs are extended out into the river to provide instream cover.

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Urban stream renewal at work. Everything in this stream is constructed after contaminated dirt was removed. The off channel pond on creek right is fed by hyporheic flow through strategically placed gravels.

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Example of a meander jam on an urban stream (Thornton Creek) just north of Seattle on a system impacted by the first (if not the largest) mall in America (Northgate Mall). Logs were placed at variable depths and prowed out over the water to create instream cover. The largest fish of the tour, what I took as a steelhead was spotted testing a redd just downstream.

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Small urban stream restoration further up Thornton Creek after a 10,000 gallon petroleum spill upstream (below the mall....). This was a high dollar project meant to monitor the ability of deep gravel lenses inoculated with beneficial algae to treat contaminated water over time. Extensive monitoring showed water quality at variable depths. They had created these gravel cylinders that could be pulled out of tubes to provide consistent samples of macroinvertebrate populations. Log pour-overs were co-located with gravel to force the water subsurface where more cleaning could take place. Larry Lestelle grew up fishing this creek before it got trashed. I found a kid size fishing bobber in an eddy....the magic is happening again! These projects may not have the hugest effect on the fishery, but they bring restoration to the masses, and they are beloved by nearby residents and schools.

Will Harling serves as Director of the Mid Klamath Watershed Council. Born and raised in the Middle Klamath, Will brings a lifetime of local knowledge and a love for this place to the work of watershed restoration.

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Bridging the Community Food Divide

Posted by admin on June 21, 2017

by Ramona Taylor

I’ve just finished up another great field trip to the garden and I’m standing on the tailgate of a pick-up truck documenting and counting everything I can: how many students, adults, volunteers, women, and veterans?  I snap a few more quick pictures, trying to get just one more picture-hoping for that perfect one that captures the moment and can show our funders we’re doing a good job.  After five years of helping to host fieldtrips, workshops, and events, I’ve learned to take a moment to bask in the sun, to reflect and enjoy. 

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Here, Mikaila Polmateer does her own basking, taking pride in a carrot she helped to grow at Junction Elementary School.

I take off my “reporting hat” to watch as the gaggle of students and teachers are walking back to the school.  Two students break off from the group at a run in the opposite direction…five years ago, I may have reacted differently, trying to make sure everyone was “doing what they were supposed to,” but instead, I casually ask the boys where they are going.  As they rush by, over his shoulder, one boy yells, “We’re going to get moooorreeere kaaaaaale!”  Sure enough, they ran back to the garden, picked some kale and were happily munching it as they rejoined the group and headed back to their classroom.   Apparently, contrary to popular belief, some kids do like kale!

In that moment, feeling all warm and fuzzy on the inside, I jumped down from the pickup truck and I know we have made a difference.  We’re not just making a difference because now we have a community apple press and a whole array of tools, equipment and infrastructure to grow, gather, process and store food.  We have made a difference because the way we think about food and they way we relate to food and to each other has changed.

This month our community will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Orleans Bridge and over the next few months, the MKWC Community Foodsheds program is winding down a five year food security grant, “Enhancing Tribal Health and Food Security in the Klamath Basin of Oregon And California by Building a Sustainable Regional Food System.”  The project, also known as the Klamath Basin Tribal Food Security Project, is a collaboration with the Karuk, Yurok and Klamath Basin Tribes, UC Berkeley, UC Extension and endless community partners including schools, other non-profits and volunteers.

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Local school kids evaluate their school garden harvest, comparing carrots from Year Two to carrots grown in Year Five.

For evaluation purposes, the questions we answer are: “Did we make a difference, have things changed, are we more food secure or independent?” At first glance, I really don’t know.  I can’t help but draw the comparison of the of the food security project with the Orleans bridge building. When a bridge is complete, you have a tangible result. It can be counted and as long as it provides a way to cross from one side of the river to the other, it is deemed a success. But really, what you get is the connection between two sides of the river, two opposite sides of community that are now connected. However, funders & Congress like to see the numbers & count the bridges.  

So to be accountable, we count and take pictures.  I think we’ve done a good job at documenting the numbers, but I think our success is more intangible. It has been about building bridges.  Clearly not the kind that cross the Klamath, but bridges that connect the communities up and down the river corridor.  We’ve created networks and discovered who some of the movers and shakers are (around food) in each community.  Our pictures capture not just what we can count at the time, but the change over time and the bridges we’ve built.  Children in those early photos have graduated and moved into high school!  School gardens have expanded, or been installed, and grown food that students eat in their lunches (or snack on during trips to the garden).  Heirloom fruit trees nearing the end of their life span have not only been saved from likely extinction, but the oral histories of the varieties have been written down for future generations and in some cases, returned to the families that planted them long ago. We also have a community fruit press that families borrow in the summer and fall.  I love that people stop to talk to our staff about what to do with all these extra eggs/fruit/veggies or how to establish a new bee hive or how do I [insert food or garden topic here]? 

We are not just counting the infrastructure changes and the attendees. We are building bridges that connect people to place and people to people.  We are developing relationships and sharing knowledge in a hands-on, peer-to-peer setting that will last far beyond the “scope and five year time frame” of the funded project. 

With our food security funding winding down, people have approached me, concerned and wondering what will happen to the MKWC Community Foodsheds Program when the funding runs out?  I am happy to say I don’t really know.  It seems like there is so much going on around food these days!

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Locals participate in a workshop in Orleans demonstrating how to build your own chicken tractor!

I believe the community will choose. It doesn’t have to be what was written into a funding proposal. It can be whatever, we as a community, choose to make it.   Even without all the numbers to back me up, I know that our community has changed.  We can literally count our blessings and under the funding, we have purchased some of the equipment we need to gather, process and store food.

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Locals in Happy Camp make good use of the Foodsheds Program cider press!

You could say we are building a more sustainable, independent or sovereign food system.  I think we are building bridges in our community centered around food.  This is the real accomplishment that is impossible to count. These are the intangible results that are worth more than any bar graph or chart or excel sheet.

Reflecting back on what we’ve done in the last five years I am proud to say, that even if nothing else has changed, at least I know those two boys in the garden really like kale!

Want to get involved? You can check us out on facebook Mid Klamath Food Shed or check out all of our gardening resources for the mid Klamath area at our website  http://www.mkwc.org/programs/foodsheds/

This blog post is partially funded by the USDA-National Institute of Food and Agriculture-Agriculture and Food Research Initiative Food Security Grant # 2012-68004-20018.

We are so thankful to the many partners, volunteers and participants who helped span the distance between us and create more Middle Klamath food security in the process. We owe our program’s success to YOU!

Ramona Taylor is the Director of MKWC's Foodsheds Program, an effort that addresses community food needs by building strong relationships, organizing peer-to-peer workshops, events and projects based on seasonal food activities, supporting ongoing initiatives in our community, and providing technical support for building strong school, community and family gardens. 

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by Carol Earnest

As the school year winds down, educators turn to themselves and ask, “So, how did that go?”

For the MKWC Watershed Education Program, the accumulation of nine months worth of field trips, classroom projects, and presentations at five schools prompts program-introspection as we ponder some big questions: How did we do? What can improve? What should never happen again?

Unlike our admirable formal educators, we informal educators do not have the same tools to evaluate success. We do not have continuous contact with students all day, five days a week, where we receive assignments and administer final exams (though we occasionally try to throw  a pre and post test into the mix). Instead, true to our namesake, we rely on informal ways to evaluate our programs.

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We use a variety of tools to go about this process. As we walk into a classroom to pick up students for a field trip are we met with smiling faces or rolling eyeballs? These nuggets of feedback are meticulously filed away for future review. Showing up with a platter of muffins? Conducting hands-on experiments involving food coloring? Popular (smiles and enthusiastic nodding were dead giveaways). Trying to convince middle schoolers to pull weeds in 40 degree rainy weather? Eye-roll city.

In addition to body language, car talk is an invaluable source of information. I place the time in the car between school and a field trip site on a shiny golden pedestal of evaluation opportunity. A relaxed car environment with little direct eye contact, where there is a sense of levity as we leave school and head out to the unknown, and where no one can go anywhere, is when some of the best honest feedback flows. For example, while sitting waiting for road workers to let us through a rock slide, I found out that eating lots of fruit is something a student is looking forward to during this year’s Klamath-Siskiyou Outdoor School, and that another student is really not interested in camping outside, ever, and that another student doesn’t like to sit and listen to me talk for long periods of time and would rather get on with the activity. In less than five minutes I learned we needed to buy more fruit, plan more day activities, and spend more time with hands-on projects.

The final, and arguably most entertaining evaluation tool, is informal writing assignments, in the forms of thank you cards and blog posts. Both allow students to reflect, without the worry of being graded. Using the classroom-safe Kidblog program, students have their own accounts where their blog posts are read by their peers and teachers. They can receive comments, and they can upload photos. This creates a sense of ownership and pride in their work, and we find that students are more willing to reflect on activities and showcase what they learned when they get to pick their font color, background photo, and emoji.

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Similarly, thank you cards are not graded and with little effort, they can provide great feedback with some reading between the lines. The teacher gives the assignment and it is often to the point, “write a thank you card.” This simplicity offers a lot of room for creativity. Often they include drawings, questions, stories, and words that I have to look up from students in classrooms with Thesauruses readily available (sagacious?). In these writing assignments, we can pinpoint what the students remember. Are they using a vocabulary word we taught? Are they using a presentation as inspiration for a creative writing piece? Did they draw tree species that we observed? In one set of thank you cards after a garden workday, over half of them mentioned that they enjoying using glitter during the arts and crafts project. Noted.

I will admit that I occasionally allow time for some indulgent blog post and thank you card reading. Feeling uninspired? Read some thank you cards. Trying to remember what we did on that field trip? Read some blog posts. Grant proposal due in an hour? Read some thank you cards. They are a gift that keeps on giving.

Here are some of my favorites:

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While we still continue to administer end of the year written evaluations, I believe, from personal experience, that interpreting body language, having casual conversations, and receiving informal writing assignments, are valuable tools to supplement the more formal written feedback, providing a more in-depth evaluation of program activities. With these techniques we may not be able to definitively say, students showed a 90% improvement in their knowledge of ________, but we can definitively say that 90% of the students left the field trip with smiles and glitter on their faces and some hands on experience improving their watershed.

Carol Earnest is MKWC’s Watershed Education Program Co-Director. She facilitates positive, educational experiences for young people of the Middle Klamath watershed, including field trips with local schools, KSOS, other restoration raft trips and hands on activities at events through MKWC and partner groups. She brings three years of experience working with youth, and a boundless, infectious enthusiasm for natural processes that occur in our ecosystems.

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What's The Dam Difference?

Posted by admin on May 16, 2017

by James Peterson

The Colorado River stretches from areas of Wyoming to its terminus in the Sea of Cortez, a distance of over 1,450 miles.  Hoover Dam was officially christened and open for business in 1936, approximately 30 miles south east of Las Vegas, to use the Colorado’s flow for power and to deliver significant amounts of water to the dry Southwestern United States. This was the first dam constructed along the Colorado River and at the time, was the largest man made structure in the world.  Glen Canyon Dam Map.jpg

The dam stretches up over 700 feet from the river bottom and creates a reservoir that floods 110 miles of the Grand Canyon of the Colorado River. Engineering and construction of Hoover dam marked the beginning of an unprecedented dam building flurry in the United States unlike the world had ever seen before. The new government agency in charge of taming the Wests wild rivers was the Bureau of Reclamation. Hundreds of dams were built across the West along many of its mightiest rivers and each engineer seemed to want to outdo all others. Shasta Dam, Grand Coulee and Bonneville are a few names that most people living out West have heard of.

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Then, in 1956, construction on the Glen Canyon Dam began. This would be the dam that brought the Colorado into total control of mankind, but, while this dam created a staggering amount of new hydroelectric power, its placement came at a steep price. The dam drowned Glen Canyon beneath a 186-mile-long reservoir.  Many considered this section of the Colorado River canyon to be the Sistine Chapel of canyon country, rivaling anything within Grand Canyon National Park. The BOR and its director Floyd Dominy were also planning to build two other dams inside the heart of Grand Canyon National Park (Marble Canyon Dam and Bridge Canyon Dam) but the public outrage was so great after Glen Canyon that these projects were abandoned in order to finance the Central Arizona Project.Grand Canyon Map.jpg

I recently returned from my second rafting trip through the Grand Canyon. We departed from Lee’s Ferry (just a few miles below Glen Canyon Dam) and ended inside the Lake Meade Reservoir behind Hoover Dam. The last 80 miles of this trip are spent floating the reservoir. Our guide book described the rapids and canyons that we were passing over but all we saw were flat stretches of water and large, sometimes 20-foot-tall, walls of sediment along each side of the river.  During this long and slow part of the trip, I had a good amount of time to imagine the features that were now buried under millions of tons of water, and come to the realization that within my lifetime I will never be able to see what lies beneath these now calmed waters of the Colorado. I will never understand how Major Wesley Powell felt on the third month of his first exploration of the Colorado River, when his expedition encountered yet another marble canyon where the walls close in and the roar of the river overwhelms your senses. 

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As a whitewater kayaking and rafting enthusiast, that is what dams like the ones that have tamed the Colorado River mean to me. They represent a loss of an adventure that could change one’s life and a loss of freedom that one can only feel when out in a distant wilderness.

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This brings me to my main point. With the Klamath Dams slated for removal beginning in 2020, an event that has been 25 years in the making could be just around the corner. If all four Klamath dams are removed, a section of river approximately 70 miles in length that has never been floated in its entirety will be opened for the first time in nearly one hundred years.  

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Instead of algae covered reservoirs, clean flowing water will again cascade through the landscape and a new river trip of epic proportions will be accessible to any who are willing. Outdoor enthusiasts will now be able to tie together the upper and lower Klamath in ways that have not been possible for the past century. A wealth of multi-day trips will now be available along the Upper Klamath River, and, much like when PacifiCorp removed its Condit Dam along the White Salmon River in Washington, this part of the River could become one of the most popular stretches of rafting along the West Coast.

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While the Klamath River and the Colorado are vastly different river systems, they both exemplify the spirit of the wild that has drawn humans to their shores since the dawn of time, and the love of the “Great Unknown” remains the same for many who come. For “we are but pygmies, running up and down the sands or lost among the boulders," in the words of Wesley Powell.Hance Rapid.jpg

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James "Jimmy" Peterson is the Water Monitoring Coordinator at MKWC. He comes from Minnesota, and brings to the Middle Klamath a love for water and fish and a sense of stewardship for those resources that transcends borders. 

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