Watershed projects improve water quality of Oregon's Bear Creek

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• Local groups, armed with a protection plan and $5.4 million in state & federal funding dramatically improve water quality in Bear Creek

SEATTLE, WA, Nov. 18, 2010 -- After years of hard work by local groups and $5.4 million in state and federal investment, areas of Bear Creek watershed are showing dramatic water quality improvement. And environmental officials are crediting a recently-adopted "watershed approach" to problem solving as the key to success.

The Bear Creek watershed, covering 361 square miles, is just the second watershed after the Tillamook watershed in Oregon to see major water quality improvements by following a plan focused on reducing pollution across the watershed. According to participants, watershed-wide solutions often prescribe several small projects to help achieve a larger overall goal of improving water quality.

"These are impressive results," said Mike Bussell, director of EPA's Office of Water & Watersheds in Seattle. "Phosphorous pollution entering the Bear Creek watershed has dropped by more than 90 percent. This is a stellar federal, state and local partnership that is helping Oregon improve water quality and protect public health."

Excessive phosphorus in rivers lakes and streams acts as fertilizer and can cause explosive plant & algae growth. When aquatic plants and algae die, they rob oxygen that fish and other aquatic organisms need to survive.

Since the early 1990s, Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, the Rogue Valley Council of Governments and the Bear Creek Watershed Council have made protecting and improving Bear Creek water quality a priority by:

• Conducting regional water quality monitoring
• Assisting with regional stormwater management planning
• Implementing demonstration projects
• Promoting education and outreach programs
• Serving as a point of contact for water quality questions

"Energized and dedicated citizens, matched with state and federal funding have worked miracles in the Bear Creek watershed," said Bill Meyers, DEQ's Rogue River Basin Coordinator. "A shared vision, tenacity and sharp tools have combined to make this area a model for other watershed-wide partnerships."

Water quality improvement projects in the Bear Creek Watershed include:

• Upgrades to City of Ashland's wastewater treatment plant
• Implementation of storm water control practices in urbanized areas;
• Improvements in Irrigation District water delivery and transport
• Outreach and education in the agricultural community about best management practices to reduce sediment to Bear Creek.

For additional information about Bear Creek Watershed, visit: http://www.bearcreek-watershed.org/
For additional information about Watersheds, visit: http://go.usa.gov/aPx
For more information on Oregon DEQ's role in water quality improvements in the Bear Creek Watershed, visit: http://www.deq.state.or.us/WQ/TMDLs/rogue.htm

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