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Watersheds

Middle Cow Creek Watershed

Key Statistics

Size (acres) 113,023
Percent Public Ownership 39
Miles of anadromous salmonid streams 112
Highest elevation (feet) 5,103
Lowest elevation (feet) 1,029

Location and Size

The 113,023-acre Middle Cow Creek fifth-field watershed is located along the south-central boarder of the Umpqua Basin. Middle Cow Creek is the largest of the four watersheds within the Cow Creek system, stretching 10 miles north to south and 28 miles east to west. The watershed includes 29 stream miles of Cow Creek from Galesville Dam to the confluence with Middle Creek.

UserUploaded/UBEAdmin/11/Middle_Cow_Creek_Land_Cover.jpg

E&S Environmental Chemistry
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Landscape and Features

The City of Glendale is the only incorporated city within the Middle Cow Creek Watershed. Other population centers are the unincorporated communities of Azalea and Quines Creek. Interstate 5 runs through the eastern portion of the watershed. It is estimated that 25% of Middle Cow Creek's population lives in Glendale.

Elevations in the Middle Cow Creek Watershed range from 5,103 feet near Cedar Springs Mountain to 1,029 feet where Cow Creek meets Middle Creek. The Middle Cow Creek Watershed is characterized by mountains with deep, v-shaped stream valleys. Land use and ownership reflects this rugged landscape. The small amount of agricultural, residential, and industrial land is limited to the lower elevation valleys, mostly around Cow Creek and its major tributaries. The remaining 93% of the Middle Cow Creek Watershed is used for forestry.

Land ownership within Middle Cow Creek is evenly split between public and private ownership. Most of the land adjacent to Cow Creek and in the Glendale area is privately owned, with some small holdings by the City of Glendale, Douglas County, and the State of Oregon. Beyond the Cow Creek Valley, ownership is a checkerboard of private and public lands. The majority of public land is federal and managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). Most of the land managed by the Oregon Department of Forestry is located in the north-central part of the watershed. Industrial timber companies own most of the private land outside of Cow Creek Valley and the City of Glendale.

UserUploaded/UBEAdmin/11/Middle_Cow_Creek_Ownership.jpg

E&S Environmental Chemistry
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Current Conditions

Since the 167-foot Galesville Dam is a complete barrier to fish passage, the Middle Cow Creek Watershed is the final stop for anadromous salmonids in the Cow Creek stream system. This watershed provides spawning and rearing habitat for winter steelhead, coho, fall chinook, and cutthroat trout. Non-native fish such as smallmouth bass, brown bullhead, and largemouth bass have been documented in the watershed. There is evidence suggesting smallmouth bass are year-round residents in some reaches of Cow Creek; however, stream temperatures are probably too cold for other warm-water species to establish reproducing populations.

UserUploaded/UBEAdmin/9/Middle_Cow_Creek.jpg

Photo courtesy of Partnership
for the Umpqua Rivers

The primary functions of Galesville Dam and Galesville Reservoir include regulating water for downstream irrigation, industrial uses, and municipal uses; regulating and releasing stream flow for fish and other aquatic life; and providing flood control. Galesville Dam stores water during the winter months and releases up to 40 cfs during the summer months. As a result, Cow Creek stream flows are lower during the winter and higher during the summer than before the dam was built.

Since 1998, most of Cow Creek and seven tributaries have been on the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (ODEQ) 303(d) list for stream temperature during the summer months. Since 2002, Dads Creek, Quines Creek, Whitehorse Creek, and Windy Creek have been designated water quality limited for habitat modification. Quines Creek is also water quality limited for flow modification. Galesville Reservoir is 303(d) listed for mercury contamination because of elevated methlymercury levels in the meat of fish caught from the reservoir. It does not appear that flows released into Middle Cow Creek have harmful levels of mercury.

Since the primary land use in the Middle Cow Creek Watershed is forestry, it is not surprising that conifers dominate almost 90% of the watershed's riparian areas. Cow Creek's riparian zone is mostly comprised of thin strips of hardwoods, whereas many of the tributary streams' riparian zones are primarily conifer forests. Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife surveyed streams in Middle Cow Creek from 1993 through 1997. At that time, low levels of large woody debris limited fish habitat in many streams.

Middle Cow Creek Enhancement Activities

Entire Middle Cow Creek Watershed

  1. Plant trees and shrubs in riparian areas. High priorities are those with less than 50% canopy cover and have a channel width for which 50% or greater cover is feasible (82 miles of riparian areas).

  2. Screen all unscreened diversions to protect fish.

  3. Perform streambank erosion control emphasizing bioengineering techniques.

  4. Encourage other native understory and tree species in monoculture riparian areas, especially those dominated by alder.

  5. Conduct blackberry removal in a way that minimizes sedimentation and interplant with trees. Establish conifers and other native vegetation in areas now dominated by blackberries (low priority, 6 miles of riparian areas).

  6. Place large woody material in streams less than 30 feet wide on a site-by-site basis.

  7. Protect and enhance existing wetlands.

  8. Consult soil/geology specialist before conducting soil-disturbing practices, as these soils are highly erodible (especially in the Riffle and Dads Creek Subwatersheds).

Cow Creek from Starvout Creek to Woodford Creek

  1. Develop stream restoration project with Azalea Landowner Group.

Quines Subwatershed

  1. Replace or retrofit culvert near mouth of Wildcat Creek that blocks access to an additional mile of resident and anadromous fish habitat.

  2. Replace or retrofit culvert on Quines Creek near South Fork Quines Creek and check weirs by the pump for fish passage. This will provide access to an additional mile of fish habitat.

Woodford/Fortune Branch Subwatershed

  1. Replace or retrofit culvert near mouth of Fortune Branch. This will provide access to an additional 1.25 miles of anadromous and resident fish habitat.

  2. Replace or retrofit culvert near mouth of Woodford Creek. This will provide access to an additional 2.5 miles of fish habitat.

  3. Limit livestock access to riparian habitat and streams through riparian fencing (some areas are already fenced), cattle crossings, off-channel watering, off-channel provision of shade, and cross fencing. Continue to use designated stream crossings and minimize number of crossings.

  4. Modify placement of power lines along Fortune Branch. Current maintenance requires pruning streamside trees and limits riparian habitat development.

Windy Subwatershed

  1. Replace or retrofit two culverts on West Fork Windy Creek. This will provide access to an additional 0.75 miles of anadromous and resident fish habitat.

  2. Replace or retrofit culvert on Bear Creek. This will provide access to an additional mile of fish habitat.

  3. Limit livestock access to riparian habitat and streams through riparian fencing, cattle crossings, off-channel watering, off-channel provision of shade, and cross fencing. Continue to use designated stream crossings and minimize number of crossings.

McCullough Subwatershed

  1. Seek alternative to runoff from industrial sites.

  2. Replace or retrofit two culverts near mouth of McCullough Creek. This will provide access to an additional 2.25 miles of anadromous and resident fish habitat.

  3. Add fish ladder to man-made dam on Totten Creek. This will provide access to an additional 2.5 miles of fish habitat.

  4. Replace or retrofit three culverts on Rattlesnake Creek. This will provide access to an additional 2.25 miles of fish habitat.

  5. Assess culverts on Mill Creek.

  6. Limit livestock access to riparian habitat and streams through riparian fencing, cattle crossings, off-channel watering, off-channel provision of shade, and cross fencing. Continue to use designated stream crossings and minimize number of crossings.

Dads Subwatershed

  1. Replace or retrofit culvert near mouth of Rattail Creek. This will potentially provide access to one mile of habitat for fish (a survey of fish use on this creek has not yet been completed).

  2. Replace or retrofit culvert near mouth of Perkins Creek. This will provide access to an additional three miles of anadromous and resident fish habitat. Assess culvert on tributary to Perkins Creek.

  3. Replace or retrofit culvert near mouth of Panther Creek. This will provide access to an additional 0.75 miles of fish habitat.

Riffle Subwatershed

  1. Replace or retrofit culvert on Riffle Creek. This will provide access to an additional 0.75 miles of fish habitat.

Middle Cow Creek Outreach Programs

  1. Collaborate with local citizens and groups to develop volunteer-based fish habitat and water quality monitoring teams that would evaluate current local conditions and post-project success, identify critical salmonid spawning and rearing habitat, and work with private landowners to determine restoration opportunities.

  2. Implement public information and educational programs about the problems associated with culverts and other fish passage barriers, ways of identifying barriers, and opportunities to replace or retrofit problem culverts and other barriers.

  3. Cooperate with local citizen's groups and agencies to conduct public information and education programs about the importance and benefits of a healthy riparian habitat. Emphasize the potential funding sources for stock water management, riparian fencing, and riparian planting and conversions to encourage landowner participation.

Sources

Kincaid, Heidi. Middle Cow Creek Watershed Assessment and Action Plan. Roseburg, Oregon: Prepared for the Umpqua Basin Watershed Council; 2002 April.