Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Nehalem Watershed (Wanderers meeting)

Today Jim Buxton, bookkeeper for the Upper Nehalem Watershed Council, enlightened us as to the important work of this nonprofit, and many like it around Oregon. People were interested and asked a lot of questions about the sciences involved, as well as about the politics.

I mentioned that his Council was unlike some others in our state in having no direct tribal involvement. As then governor Kitzhaber's letter to then president Clinton made clear, Oregon works closely with tribal leadership on issues like this, where long term care for the environment is involved (Jim circulated a copy of this letter, which helped establish these councils back in 1995 or so -- see House Bill 3441).

In the current political climate, budget pressures have become serious; the coordinator of eight years, who never experienced a pay increase, is now looking at a cut. Lottery money helps. Jim put it out to the group that funding is becoming a real priority. I suggested he might approach Spirit Mountain (there's some overlap at least in Tillamook and Washington Counties, in terms of purview). Provisions 2 and 5 of the Spirit Mountain guidelines suggest that the Council should seek funding for a specific new project or activity (e.g. a culvert replacement), as this need not be construed as replacing public funding.

Given my slant towards medical science, I was struck by the GIS displays: a watershed drainage system looks a lot like a heart. The water maybe flows in one direction, but the salmon, a key player in this system, go both directions, and blocked or badly designed culverts are akin to blocked arteries in the heart (culverts are like stents). The Council's job is to keep this 800 square mile part of Oregon from experiencing cardiac arrest. They do it on a shoestring.

The work is especially difficult in Tillamook, where every acre of grazable land, right up to the river's edge, is allocated to bovines. Tillamook cheese: clogging your arteries in more ways than one (I happen to love the stuff, but sometimes Yes Men need an evil slogan to help folks think more clearly).