Using funds awarded in February 2014 by the Embrace-A-Stream grant program, the Blueback Chapter of Trout Unlimited (#196, Corvallis, OR) purchased six wetsuits, snorkels, masks, GPS units, and walkie-talkies to begin a monitoring program on the South Fork of the Siletz River. The grant also funded a rapid biological assessment from Bio-Surveys, LLC, wherein professional river snorkelers (how do I get one of those jobs!?!?) conducted surveys on over 14 miles of the South Fork Siletz and its tributaries.
The Bluebacks adopted the Siletz basin as their unofficial homewaters and have embarked on this EAS-funded, volunteer-driven survey effort to collect fish presence/absence data for the South Fork Siletz. This data will inform debate about a proposed dam that would inundate much of the South Fork Siletz and be diverted to provide irrigation water for a neighboring county. The Siletz Basin is home to one of the only native coastal summer steelhead runs in Oregon, and is also home to vibrant Coastal Cutthroat, rainbow trout, and lamprey populations.
Now in its sixth month, the Siletz effort has expanded in scope, with the Bluebacks using the wetsuits and snorkel equipment they purchased for monitoring efforts to engage the public at large in what an incredible experience river snorkeling can be. In August, the Bluebacks led a trip on the McKenzie River where they snorkeled a reach of the South Fork McKenzie that was the site of large woody debris placement and further habitat restoration efforts by the US Forest Service. In September, the Bluebacks will return to the Siletz for another snorkel outing and have plans to continue offering guided snorkel trips throughout Western Oregon during summer and early fall months.
For more information on river snorkeling or monitoring projects, contact the Bluebacks at bluebacksTU@gmail.com.