Sun Creek, Oregon

Purpose of the project:
Sun Creek originates on the southern slopes of Crater Lake National Park (CLNP) and was historically a tributary to the Wood River in the Upper Klamath Basin. Due to agricultural land use there have been extensive channel alterations over the last century and Sun Creek is no longer connected to the Wood River. A population of federally threatened bull trout (Salvelinus confluentus) inhabits Sun Creek and with aggressive management from CLNP, increased in abundance ten-fold in the last two decades. This project will reconnect Sun Creek to the Wood River, creating a migratory corridor for the isolated bull trout population and expanding available habitat for redband trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) already present in the Wood River. To accomplish this objective, a new Sun Creek stream corridor will be established, flow in the new channel will be increased by permanently transferring water instream, and diversions will be screened to prevent fish entrainment in irrigation ditches. This project represents a highly successful collaboration between federal, state, tribal, non-profit, and private entities.

Project Goals:
To reestablish redband trout and migratory populations of bull trout to Sun Creek through improved connectivity, habitat quality and stream and riparian function.

Project Objectives:
1. Increase Sun Creek bull trout population size and range.
2. Reestablish bull trout to Wood River and tributaries.
3. Reestablish redband trout to Sun Creek.
4. Provide quality year-round connection between Sun Creek and Wood River.
5. Establish year-round flow in Sun Creek.
6. Establish functioning riparian area.
7. Establish geomorphically functional stream.
8. Eliminate entrainment risk.

Human Interest/Community Benefit:
Bull trout were once widespread in the Upper Klamath Basin but are now limited to seven small populations in isolated headwater streams. Factors limiting bull trout recovery include competition and hybridization with non-native brook trout (S. fontinalis), habitat fragmentation, which reduces genetic exchange, and extensive habitat degradation associated with agricultural land use such as flow reduction, limited instream cover, bank destabilization, and lack of floodplain connectivity. Sun Creek is one of only two streams that contain extant populations of bull trout within the Upper Klamath Lake Core Area, designated in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) recovery plan. The other population in the Core Area occurs in Threemile Creek on the west side of the Wood River Valley.

In 1989, biologists found that the Sun Creek bull trout population was restricted to 1.2 miles of habitat with an estimated abundance of 150 individuals. Over the last 20 years, CLNP has led efforts to remove nonnative brook trout and install exclusion barriers on CLNP and ODF property. The results paint a true success story, as bull trout abundance and distribution have increased approximately tenfold since 1989 (Buktenica et al. 2013). Current abundance estimates range from 2500-3000 individuals. Twenty-two bull trout were collected in 2012 downstream of the national park barriers, and that number increased to 128 in 2013. CLNP has fish traps at the barriers and continues to pass native fish upstream. Reconnecting Sun Creek to the Wood River will allow the expanding bull trout population to access the Wood River and its other tributaries. Consequently, bull trout will be able to express multiple life history strategies, recolonize other streams, and increase population resilience to large disturbance events in the Upper Klamath Lake Core Area.

Native redband rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) have been extirpated from Sun Creek, primarily due to poor connectivity between Sun Creek and the Wood River, overall habitat degradation, and interactions with non-native salmonids. Similar to other Cascade tributaries in the Upper Klamath Basin, redband trout in Sun Creek were likely widespread and abundant and moved throughout tributary, mainstem river, and lake habitats before extensive habitat alterations limited access to tributary systems. Reconnecting Sun Creek to the Wood River will allow redband trout to recolonize Sun Creek and access high quality spawning and rearing habitat.

Sun Creek has been selected as a “Waters to Watch” project for a variety of reasons:
1) It benefits two important native trout species, and paints a success story that illustrates a long history of agencies and organizations partnering to improve and restore habitat.
2) We also feel that this project provides NFHP a nice tie-in to press and potential publicity surrounding the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service in 2016.
3) Lastly, there is a compelling story to be told about the recent successful collaborative work on the conservation of Interior redband trout. In 2012, WNTI was the primary facilitator behind the development of a range-wide assessment for interior redband trout, involving the convening of 13 workshops to complete a comprehensive status review in
partnership with the state fish and wildlife agencies of California, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Washington, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management and 11 Tribal nations, as well as representatives from private companies. When the assessment was complete, the final results involved the expertise of upwards of 95 biologists and ArcGIS technical experts, and 15 data entry personnel. In July 2014, six states, four federal agencies, five Tribal governments, and Trout Unlimited signed the Interior Redband Trout Conservation Agreement to facilitate greater partnerships and prioritization goals for the species (http://www.fws.gov/pacific/fisheries/sphabcon/species/Interior%20Redband…). In December 2014, a Redband Trout Species Conservation Team formed to refine conservation actions more specific to the geographic management units established in the 2012 range-wide assessment.
In fall 2014, a communications team consisting of representatives from state and federal agencies, WNTI and Trout Unlimited, developed the social media campaign #TroutTuesday to share interior redband trout natural history facts, conservation challenges, and the Conservation Agreement with the public. The campaign launched in November 2014 and will be continued throughout 2015. Each Tuesday, one of the partnering organizations posts on Twitter, Facebook, or their blog something about redband trout that is then “shared” among all the other partnering organizations. The #TroutTuesday campaign posts have gone viral on several occasions, and now have individual members of the public and other organizations also posting to the hashtag.
Project Timeline: Project design and leasing began in winter 2014. Channel construction, and placement of the fish screen are scheduled for Fall 2015, with fencing, instream leasing and riparian planting to occur in Fall 2015/Spring 2016. WNTI funds paid for the channel construction, and will be spent down by early Fall 2015.

Economic Calculator results:
Jobs: 14.7127
Total Sales: $1,305,116.18
Value added: $782,527.44
Income: $634,911.39

Please note: These economic calculator amounts were based on the TOTAL project cost of $715,053. WNTI contributed just $30K of that amount.

Partners:
- Crater Lake National Park
- Klamath Basin Rangeland Trust
- National Fish and Wildlife Foundation
- Natural Resources Conservation Service, Klamath Falls Service Center
- Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife
- Oregon Department of Forestry
- Oregon Department of Water Resources
- Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board
- The Klamath Tribes
- U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
- U.S. Forest Service, Fremont-Winema National Forest
- Western Native Trout Initiative
- two private landowners

The lead organization is the Klamath Basin Rangeland Trust (KBRT);

2015 Waters to Watch