By BROOKE SNAVELY
CENTRAL OREGON DAILY NEWS
Decades ago, Paulina Creek was mined for gravel to build the road that leads to East and Paulina lakes.
Finally, some 70 years later, the disturbed creek bed is being restored.
The Paulina Creek restoration project focuses on the stretch of the creek north of County Road 21 to an area adjacent to Peter Skene Ogden Group Camp.
The Initial work is located north of a footbridge connecting to a wonderful trail that follows Paulina Creek 9 miles all the way up to Paulina Lake.
“You would never recognize this stream if you were here in the summer because it’s all in that main channel, but we get these impressive ice dams every winter and it pops the river out into this old ditch and then onto our road,” said Kyle Wright, Deschutes National Forest Service hydrologist. “One thing you never want is water running on a road, so this is something we want to fix.”
The Forest Service plans to remedy the problem by raising the roadbed and establishing good drainage.
“Then we’ll fill in this old ditch that’s transporting this water and grade, gently grade back toward the main creek bed so the water wants to go that way and then under the bridge,” Wright said.
The restoration work will improve the hydrologic function of Paulina Creek, which was moved and channeled during gravel mining operations in the middle of the last century.
The creek channel will be realigned to reduce flooding.
Native vegetation will be seeded and planted in newly developed riparian areas, and access to the Peter Skene Ogden Trail better defined.
“Now the equipment is spreading mulch out on the site. We’ve got the digger tilling it into the soil to mix in the mulch and get a nice layer of the mulch on top,” said Marlo Fisher, a botanist with the Deschutes National Forest. “The mulch is valuable in holding soil moisture in on the surface which is going to be really important for allowing seed germination. That will be our next step.”
A mixture of native grass and wildflower seeds will be spread on newly created riparian zones along the creek.
Sedges, willows and aspens will be planted by hand to accelerate the restoration of native plant communities.
“I hope we get to have some diversity out here,” Fisher said. “With the way the creek was channeled, we had upland vegetation right up against the creek which is unnatural. I hope to see some thriving wetlands, plant communities. I want to see the sedges thrive, the willows too. The willows would be really nice and pretty, too.”
Though it’s hard to imagine in the dead of winter with heavy equipment rumbling around, this area could attract pollinators, such as Monarch butterflies and a variety of birds.
How can the public help?
“Once we get seed in, it’s imperative we keep foot traffic out of the area. If you get people walking in a newly seeded area, the ground gets compacted and it makes it challenging for any of that seed to germinate,” Fisher said. “If they can follow the trails, follow this path that we’ve created on this side. The official trail is on the other side of the creek so if they remain over there that would be really beneficial and helpful.”
The restoration work is paid for by a grant from TC Energy, a natural gas company which has a pipeline that parallels Highway 97 a few miles west of the project area.
Project managers said when the work is complete, the public will still have access to the creek and be able to play in the water.
“Sure, they’ll have access. We might have folks avoid some areas that are newly planted to let them establish,” Wright said. “One of the issues we have is folks damming up the creek. We try to avoid that as much as we can because of the erosion it creates and some other issues with downstream water users. We want people to play in the creek and enjoy but that damming the creek isn’t terribly beneficial.”
The restoration is slated to continue through early February with a second phase of the project scheduled for spring or early summer.