MCINTYRE CREEK RESTORATION TAKING SHAPE

November 12, 2001 12:00 am
PROJECT PROGRESSES: Paul Boehne of the Forest Service stands beside mcIntyre Creek, showing its proximity to a road that will be closed. (The Observer/ALICE PERRY LINKER).
PROJECT PROGRESSES: Paul Boehne of the Forest Service stands beside mcIntyre Creek, showing its proximity to a road that will be closed. (The Observer/ALICE PERRY LINKER).

By Alice Perry Linker

Observer Staff Writer

McIntyre Creek tumbles down the Blue Mountains from its headwaters near the Umatilla County line on its way to McCoy Creek and eventually to the Grande Ronde River.

Over the years, settlers and builders have straightened the path of the creek, and for about six miles a county road shares its bed.

But the times are changing. The county road, McIntyre Road, no longer pushes the creek around but has been moved to higher ground, and within a few years, the creek will find its best channel.

Taking the road out of the creek bed has been almost more work than building it, and the cost, which has approached $1 million, is certainly much higher than the original road construction cost.

The restoration project began several years ago with an analysis of the creek. Funding came from the Grande Ronde Model Watershed and the Blue Mountains Demonstration Forest. The Union County Public Works Department provided some vehicles, and federal, state and tribal agencies worked together to make it all happen.

A few weeks ago, the new county road opened above the creek. The old road is closing, and next summer, if all goes well, the vacated road bed will be ripped out of the ground and native shrubs and grasses will be planted.

Project completion depends on money, said La Grande District Ranger Kurt Wiedenmann. The Forest Service has asked for $140,000 from a federal program that funds formerly timber-dependent counties.

We will find the money, Wiedenmann said. If not this year, next year.

The restoration and reconstruction of McIntyre Creek is only one project in the overall Meadow Creek Watershed. Downstream, McCoy Creek has been partly restored to its original meander, and a new bridge crosses McCoy Creek, allowing for easy fish passage.

Altogether 111,000 acres, 32,000 of them private, are involved in the several-years-long Meadow Creek Watershed project.

Paul Boehne of the Forest Service, who has been a coordinator for the McIntyre Creek project, said that as the vegetation along the banks takes hold, sediment in the stream should be reduced, leading to water more hospitable to fish. Even in the old creek, which almost dries up every year, there are a few pools here and there, and Boehne said steelhead sometimes live in the pools.

After McIntyre Creek, restoration efforts will move to the upper end of McCoy Creek and the Forest Service 21 Road near its intersection with Spring Creek Road. Again, several agencies will work together to improve riparian and in-stream conditions in a project that could cost up to $2 million.

Restoration in the Meadow Creek drainage, which began six or seven years ago, is almost 25 percent finished and includes private and public lands, Wiedenmann said.

It seems most landowners want to participate, Boehne said.