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Watershed Coordinator Cindy Thieman presents on the group’s upcoming 2040 plan during a special event at the Ruins on May 9.

Members of the Hood River Watershed Group, an organization dedicated to improving the local watershed, gathered at The Ruins last week to talk about the importance of the watershed and the group’s upcoming 2040 plan, expected to be released early next year.

“What we really wanted to do (with this event) was to talk about these issues and figure out what we’re going to do for the next couple of years,” said Hood River Watershed Group Coordinator Cindy Thieman.

Speakers Kathryn Arendt, a fish biologist with the Mt. Hood National Forest, Blayne Eineichner, the fish habitat program coordinator at the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs, and Les Perkins, general manager of the Farmers Irrigation District, gave brief presentations on the importance of fish in the Columbia Gorge, the tribes’ interests in the Columbia River Basin, and the importance of water conservation, respectively.

Thieman also gave a brief overview of the group’s 2040 plan, the goal of which is to help ensure that “by 2040, watershed conditions support viable populations of native fish and other aquatic species. Salmon, steelhead and bull trout populations are on a trajectory towards recovery.”

Specific goals of the plan include restoring and protecting streams, wetlands and floodplains; adding more screen diversions to exclude fish from irrigation trenches/pipes; restoring fish passage; increasing summer stream flows; improving water quality and forging new community partnerships.

“This is the time to talk about creative ways to run,” she said. “We’re excited to start having some of those conversations.”

In the past 15 years, the Watershed Group reported achievements such as opening up over 30 miles of stream habitat, installing a large number of fish screens to prevent fish from entering irrigation canals/pipes, and completing hundreds of acres of on-farm irrigation upgrades.

Organized under the Hood River Soil and Water Conservation District, the Hood River Watershed Group is one of 90 watershed councils that exist statewide. The group includes landowners, farmers, Tribes, irrigation and water districts, local government, environmental organizations, businesses, recreationalists and community members “working together to sustain and improve the Hood River Watershed through education, cooperation and stewardship,” reads a statement on the group’s webpage, hoodriverswcd.org/hrwg.