GOLD BEACH - What exactly IS a watershed, anyway?

Is it good or bad for fish if you leave logs in a creek? Those involved with the task of saving salmon and cleaning up Oregon's streams are politely saying that not enough people know the answers to such questions.

Now, a coalition of scientists under the leadership of the Oregon State University Extension Service is hoping to launch a mass education effort to teach the basics of "Watershed 101" and "Oregon Fish Saving 101" said Derek Godwin, the coastal watershed OSU extension agent for Curry County.

"In working primarily with watershed councils, we recognized the need was there," Godwin said. "Basically, we had a lot of weight on voluntary projects, but we hadn't provided a lot of education."

Volunteer efforts to improve salmon habitat are vital to the state's four water quality and salmon recovery projects: The Governor's Salmon Restoration Initiative, the state Department of Environmental Quality's 303(D) list of polluted waterways, Senate Bill 1010, and the Coastal Zone Management Act. Yet none of those plans had an education strategy or the resources to teach the volunteers the basic science involved or how to get their water improvement programs started.

Godwin said few organized programs are available to teach watershed councils, their members and other interested citizens such vital information as: how a watershed functions, what conditions fish need to thrive, how to monitor and improve water quality, and how to create successful partnerships, hold meetings and establish a communications network among the participants.

So Godwin and a group of scientists from the OSU Extension Service and the OSU Sea Grant Extension Program are creating a short course, complete with a basic text book. The project is known as the Watershed Stewardship Education Program. Now in the formative stages, its goal is a curriculum of lectures and support materials that would be available to anyone needing them by early summer.

A series of training sessions will be offered on the south, central and north coast. Participants can choose what they want to know out of the seminars, depending on their local projects and needs in hopes of having watershed councils adopt the program. Then they can use volunteers and local technical advisers, including OSU, to make their watershed improvements happen.

The project is being paid for by the OSU Extension Service. For additional information, contact Derek Godwin, 1-800-356-3986; Flaxen Conway, 541-737-1418; or Mike Coughesy, 1-800-872-8980.

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Derek Godwin 541-247-6672