Phase 2 of the Vinegar to Vincent Fish Habitat Improvement project is located on the Middle Fork John Day River (MFJDR) on land that is owned and operated by the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs in Grant County, approximately three miles northwest of the town of Bates. Both summer steelhead and spring Chinook use this fork of the John Day River to spawn and rear. However, over the past several decades both species have experienced notable declines in population abundance. This has largely been attributed to past management and land-use practices, which have resulted in floodplain disconnection, increased water temperatures, and a reduction in quality fish habitat.
Phase 1 of this project was completed in 2020, which included channel excavation/creation (1.36 miles), large wood installation, plantings (23,301 plantings), and floodplain structures on the south side of the railroad grade. The exclosure fence that will surround the entire project was completed on the south side and a temporary fence was constructed along the railroad grade. In 2021, 50 floodplain structures were installed as a Phase 1.5, along with 1,200 willow cuttings.
This summer, Phase 2 of this project will be implemented by the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs. This project will address the persistent legacy effects through the removal of the railroad grade and rerouting of the main channel. The MFJDR will be reconnected to its historic floodplain, groundwater storage will increase and provide a cold-water source to the river throughout the year. The introduction of large wood will provide slow water refuge for both juvenile and adult Chinook and steelhead, and the installation of riffles will provide spawning habitat as well as macroinvertebrate habitat for juvenile forage. An extensive planting effort, coupled with fencing to exclude both cattle and wildlife, will allow the riparian corridor to recover post-construction.
The photos seen here were just taken showing the Phase 1 new channel work and plantings at the site. The existing river channel can be seen in its straightened form, locked between the railroad grade and the county road, as it has been for the past 115 years.
There will be a significantly large fish salvage in conjunction with this construction, if you are interested in volunteering please head to the link below and fill out a volunteer form.