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Water groups gather residents to prepare for floods

Welches meeting Tuesday to help plan flood response

'We love the river so much that we want to live right on it. Yet, the Sandy River's dynamic nature puts us at risk.'

Steve Wise, executive director of the Sandy River Basin Watershed Council, posed this conflict after last year's mid-January flood swallowed three houses, washed out Lolo Pass Road and damaged many properties in the Welches area.

With support from the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board, Wise and the watershed council invite residents to a kickoff restorative flood response meeting from 6:30-8:30 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 17, at Welches Elementary School, 24091 E. Salmon River Road, Welches.

Yes, this is coming together a year after the flood, because of watershed board funding and work cycles. But Wise says the project is well worth the participation of river residents.

Wise said the goal is to discuss and plan ways the council can join with private landowners to share costs of reducing risk to properties while at the same time improving fish habitat.

'In some ways, we're trying to find a middle ground,' Wise said, acknowledging the frustration river homeowners have expressed in balancing the protection of their property with the restrictions that threatened and endangered species place on their options.

'We have to follow the law (for stream bank and floodplain restoration projects), and there's a layer of scrutiny other rivers may not have that's a fact of life on the Sandy,' he said.

Russ Plaeger, watershed coordinator for the council, said the kickoff meeting will feature 'two regionally recognized river restoration experts who understand how the Sandy behaves and the types of actions that are suitable on a dynamic river.'

Though it's not exempt from the permit process required for property protection, Wise said the council can guide homeowners to practices that meet the Army Corps of Engineers' standards.

Wise said taking the time to get the projects right and developing them in groups instead of individually are crucial. One possible project is side channel reconnection, a plan that may take two or three years but could diffuse the river's force.

'The one thing we're sure of is that this was not the last high-water event the Sandy basin will see,' Wise said. 'The Sandy is going to go where the Sandy is going to go.'

The Sandy River Basin Watershed Council works with the community to restore and protect habitat, including salmon and steelhead, in the Sandy and its tributaries: the Zigzag, Salmon and Bull Run rivers.

For more information about the restorative flood response project or other Sandy River Basin Watershed Council efforts, call Steve Wise at 503-668-1428 or email him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..