Fire Isn’t The Only Threat To The Mckenzie

Taylor Griggs’ article “Salmon in Smoke” (EW, 2/4) does a commendable job covering the impacts that have pushed McKenzie River salmon runs to the brink of extinction. Missing from the analysis, however, are the long-standing cumulative consequences of housing and logging practices not only on the McKenzie but in watersheds statewide that destroy the habitat and water quality necessary for all creatures to survive.

Long before the Holiday Farm Fire burned through the McKenzie corridor, an inadequate and unenforced riparian ordinance has allowed dwellings and other intrusions whose owners have removed native vegetation, introduced invasive species such as English ivy and planted lawns to the river’s edge maintained by leaching fertilizers and herbicides.

Toxic ash from chemicals embedded in burned structures have doubtless made their way in the winter rains into a river already corrupted by algae blooms induced by herbicides, fertilizers and failed septics that cover the spawning gravels of the fewer exhausted salmon who manage to survive their long journey from the ocean every year.

In order for salmon to survive as a species the myriad intrusions impacting the McKenzie and other watersheds must be addressed with comprehensive legislation, including a revised Oregon Forest Practices Act, that disallows any impediments to the natural function of watersheds. Whether old or new, however, any regulation is only as good as its enforcement, and Lane County’s riparian ordinance, for one, is not being enforced. 

A river once an icon of beauty, purity and pride is dying. Its resurrection is in our hands.

Robert Emmons

Fall Creek