Healing Rivers By (Voluntarily) Limiting Development

A voluntary program of incentives for land owners along the two rivers in Oregon, the Mckenzie River east of Eugene and the Rogue River near Medford, provides incentives for maintaining natural conditions along the river bed.

1 minute read

March 11, 2014, 6:00 AM PDT

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell

Devan Schwartz reports on a pair of programs meant to deliver improvements in water quality along two rivers in Oregon.

The first example is the Voluntary Incentives Program, led by the Eugene Water & Electric Board (EWEB). Under the pilot project landowners along the McKenzie River, “would be paid for EWEB to have access to a small swath of land near the river. That swath would then managed for the landowners to improve or maintain the habitat.”

The Medford program, launched in 2012, is called a thermal trading system, arising out of a need for alternatives for expensive proposals to cool the river for salmon habitat.

“The river was at risk of becoming too warm for salmon and falling short of federal clean-water standards. Medford considered installing two chillers to cool the water. That would have cost about $15 million.

Instead, Medford launched a program in 2012 that pays between $100 and $300 per acre for easements from landowners to plant trees on their property. The $8 million cost for the program is just more than half that of the chillers.”

Not everyone agrees about how effective voluntary programs like these are, and some have called for more comprehensive programs of stream protection.

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