July 31, 2003 11:00 pm
McIntyre Creek gets a New course ().
McIntyre Creek gets a New course ().

By Alice Perry Linker

Observer staff writer

Restoring creeks to their original meander seems to be the thing to do this summer, but restoration is not a fad — it's a trend that will improve stream health and fish and wildlife habitat.

The latest stream to turn back to its original state is McIntyre Creek, which for years competed with a road by the same name for space. A new road, high above the creek, was finished last year, and this summer, the abandoned road bed is being torn out of the land, a new creek bed is under construction, and by next spring, the waters of McIntyre Creek will flow in a natural winding stream, complete with pools for steelhead and other fish, and shaded by trees and grasses.

Mark Gomez of the La Grande Ranger District is coordinating this summer's final step in the creek's restoration.

"In the old channel there was not one pool in a three-mile grade," Gomez said as he walked along the newly dug creek bed.

Gomez said that although McIntyre Creek flows intermittently, it is a spawning ground for spring steelhead.

The restored creek, which flows through property owned by Dick Snow near McIntyre Road, will have pools, gradual slopes from land to water and a meandering path.

Snow, a cattle rancher, has developed springs for livestock watering ponds on the top of a ridge on his property. Gomez said availability of water on the ridges will allow the cattle to disperse throughout the ranch instead of gathering along the creek.

Gomez praised Snow's willingness to work with the Forest Service and the others involved with the road.

Moving a road and restoring a creek has not been easy. Work began in 1999, as Union County road crews began construction of the new road on Snow's land above the creek bed.

The cost to move less than five miles of road reached $387,000 and was financed by funds from the Grande Ronde Model Watershed. As time passes, it will be impossible to see the remnants of the old ditched creek and road.

Less than two weeks ago, Bear Creek, which like McIntyre flows in the upper Grande Ronde Watershed, was returned to a meandering stream.