Joint effort will make Buchanan ditch a point of pride in EP

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The Buchanan Ditch/Creek bisecting the City of Eagle Point has, over the years, carried more than water from its beginnings near the Willamette Egg Farm.  It has also carried controversy in the nature of its ownership, enough flood water to inundate the city and is now the subject of a restoration project.

Perhaps restoration is the incorrect term, because it is not being restored, but brought to a state that will beautify the city and prevent some of the flooding that has been associated with it over the last several years.

As mentioned, the ditch runs through the city on a north to south course.  According to Rob Miller with Eagle Point Public Works, the ditch carries irrigation water from two Irrigation Districts and runoff water from natural drainage, but not at the same time.  The Little Butte Irrigation Ditch dissects the city from east to west, most of which is piped, but there is some spillage when there is unusually high levels during winter months.

The section of the ditch south of Crystal Avenue and north of Main street has been widened and contoured so that heavy winter runoff will not erode stream banks.  But that is only part of the plan.  Riparian planting of trees, shrubs, and grasses will further fortify the banks of the stream to insure that rain-soaked earth will not erode.

The project is a joint effort between the Little Butte Creek Watershed Council and the city of Eagle Point.  Design work was done by Katalyst, Inc., with the assistance of M & M Services. 

Several small retention ponds dot the drainage, allowing for a slight elevation gain between each to allow fish passage.  Log weirs are planted into the banks to prevent washing out, creating the ponds that provide needed habitat for small wildlife and other creatures.  Herons and loons patrol the area looking for aquatic insects and tiny fish for their next meal.

At one time, Little Butte Creek Irrigation ditch canal snaked through the small canyon, gathering run-off water from the surrounding hills.  Since the city decided to re-route the canal, it is no longer available to trap that water which now runs through the city on its way to Little Butte Creek in the vicinity of Harnish Wayside.  Water that was once carried out of town to the west is now directed at Buchanan Creek.  This became a cause for concern and a plan of action was needed. 

The city got help from the public works department, parks department and the Watershed council.  A number of  volunteers gathered to do the plantings on a chilly December 10 morning.  With  the design already laid out, the crew dug holes in the frozen ground and chipped away at frozen root balls before carefully placing trees and filling with topsoil from Biomass.  Grasses and other low-growing plants were “plugged” into the “Black Sticky” that makes up most of the soils in this area.  Sprinkler irrigation will help the plants during the initial summer months to give new plantings a good start.

In all, 833 trees, shrubs and grass plugs were planted at the site, all supplied by the City of Eagle Point.  The contoured banks should help prevent erosion and the riparian planting will create a park-like atmosphere which should be a welcome addition to area residents.  Miller said this is to become a showcase project for the city in addition to it being an effort to clean up the creek.  He also said that it should help clean the creek of bacteria and help with water temperatures.

Above the project are some larger ponds, that have caused concern for some residents because of the potential for mosquitoes.  Miller assured the Independent that there are species of fish that can be planted that feed on mosquito larva, and the problem should be held to a manageable level.

It will take some time for the vegetation to take hold, mature and grow into a pleasing addition to the city.  But as time passes, motorists and residents should see a considerable change from the present picture.
By Ralph McKechnie
for the Independent

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