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Groups team up to help Wagner Creek

Active rehabilitation in three riparian areas along Wagner Creek within Talent city limits is underway by a regional conservation organization, a local support group and the city.

The Freshwater Trust will spend up to $70,000 over the next eight years on work between Valley View Road and Highway 99, the city has a grant for improvements by Old Bridge Village at Talent Avenue, and Friends of Wagner Creek held a second planting day Saturday at Wagner Creek Park next to Rapp Road.

“If we can do something really nice up there at the park and down there by Brammo, then we will essentially have created anchor points at the top and the bottom,” said Eugene Wier, project manager with the trust. The city, the friends and his group collaborate on efforts, he said.

The federal Bureau of Reclamation has funded Freshwater’s restoration project. The agency needs to create more riparian habitat in the upper Bear Creek watershed by 2017. During summer, fish escape the warmer waters of Bear Creek by going into Wagner Creek with its cooler temperatures.

About 600 feet along the east creek bank will see removal of invasive species, primarily blackberries, while 350 feet of the west bank will receive similar treatment. A corridor 30 to 50 feet from the creek will be treated depending on topography. Trees to shade the waterway and shrubs will be planted next year, and the agency will monitor the site for up to eight years to ensure success.

Initial work will include herbicide application over the next couple weeks to eliminate blackberries. The trust has selected a spray with minimal impact and timed the application for maximum benefit. A city permit for the work has been issued.

Dead blackberries will be removed ahead of the spring bird nesting season, and remaining invasive sprouts would be treated. Some planting could be done as early as spring 2016, with significant planting in the fall.

Planting Saturday at the park was done by 16 adult volunteers and eight children. Talent Elementary School children did a spring planting. Blackberries along the creek were removed in 2014.

“We’re going to keep ... the invasive species from coming back, doing hand weeding and watering those plants the next couple summers to make sure they take off,” said Cynthia Care of the Friends group.

The Friends also seek to educate private land owners along the creek on restoration and stewardship, Care said. The group has talked with a landowner just above the Talent Avenue Bridge about assistance to remove invasive plants.

Jackson Soil and Water Conservation District awarded a $3,891 grant to the city to remove invasive species and to plant new and replacement trees and shrubs at Old Bridge Village Park. Willows and native grasses will be planted along the creek banks, and an additional six trees and nearly 50 shrubs will be placed throughout the park.

A volunteer work party at Old Bridge is scheduled for Nov. 21 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. For details, contact Community Development Director Zac Moody at 541-535-7401 or zmoody@cityoftalent.org.

In addition, City Council has approved accepting land where Wagner Creek flows from Valley View Road into Bear Creek from Clearview Corporation. Future restoration work is envisioned for that section.

“That’s really high value ecologically, that last 1,000 feet of Wagner,” said Wier. But the area must be studied as the channel has been straightened and there is a dike built along the former Talent Truck Stop site. Work to create a more natural streambed should be considered first before riparian repair is undertaken, said Wier.

Tony Boom is an Ashland freelance writer. Reach him at tboomwriter@gmail.com