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Bear Creek plantings mostly survived February deluge

We've been following the streamside restoration work along Bear Creek that has been done by high school volunteers over the years, and our son was one of those early volunteers. We're afraid that the high-water event in early February might have undone much of the hard work of this year's volunteer class. Have the plantings survived this winter's high water?

— B.D., Medford

We at Since You Asked School of Riparian Ecology have to admit that those young plants sure took a beating during the Feb. 6-7 high-water event in downtown Medford. But the project seems to have survived thanks to some timely tree triage.

"When the water came down, we replanted the lost trees and we rebarked and straightened up the others," says Jim Hutchins, the Oregon Stewardship naturalist who heads the restoration effort on Bear Creek's downtown riparian zones. "In the end, we didn't lose more than 1 or 2 percent of the trees, and we've planted hundreds of trees there."

Hutchins says he stood on the 12th Street bridge over Bear Creek Feb. 7 and watched a whopping 12,000 cubic feet per second of water stream over this year's plantings, worried they'd be washed out.

Indeed, a 200-foot section of the creek's east bank near 10th Street was completely scoured out, Hutchins says. Those plants were replaced, but higher up the bank, he says.

The high water also washed in yards and yards worth of gravel that spawning fall chinook salmon should find to their liking next fall, Hutchins says.

Send questions to “Since You Asked,” Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by email to youasked@mailtribune.com. We’re sorry, but the volume of questions received prevents us from answering all of them.