This fall marks the start of the district’s multi-phased projects prioritizing the Mill Creek watershed. These projects will span several years. At WWCCD we are committed to addressing local concerns and improving stream conditions. Over the next two years, WWCCD staff will be in the Mill Creek area conducting surveys and working with landowners to help prevent property damage from floods, enhance habitat, and improve water quality.
WWCCD is initiating a Floodplains by Design project which focuses on improving floodplain connectivity. Over 100 landowners contacted the district after the Feb. 2020 flood and reported nearly $10,000,000 in damage to private property. WWCCD secured funds to help with flood recovery and improve the region’s ability to handle future high-water events. The first phase of this project is between Wickersham bridge and Blue Creek. WWCCD staff will engage with landowners to gain their input on what’s needed to protect their land and the surrounding ecosystems. The objective is to help restore natural floodplain function so flood water can be directed away from infrastructure (homes, roads, buildings) and directed to historical flood areas where flood energy can be safely dispersed and waters slowed.
Another project in the Mill Creek area is the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) National Water Quality Initiative (NWQI) program. The NWQI supports voluntary farm conservation projects that focus on water quality improvements. These include practices to promote soil health, reduce erosion and lessen nutrient runoff. This benefits natural resources while enhancing agricultural productivity and profitability. The NWQI project involves field surveys with landowners to identify current conditions and develop plans to use NRCS practices to improve water quality conditions. The NWQI project area will take place at the mouth/confluence with the Walla Walla River up to the confluence with Blue Creek.
A Snake River Salmon Recovery project is also in progress within the Mill Creek watershed. This watershed is a priority because Mill Creek is within a designated Major Spawning Area (MSA) for Mid-Columbia steelhead from its confluence with the Walla Walla River upstream to its head waters. Mill Creek is also unique in the Snake River Region because its entire upper watershed is protected as a municipal water supply for the City of Walla Walla. This project provides funding to develop a stream restoration design with a specific emphasis on salmon habitat. It’s focusing on the 2-mile reach between the Last Chance Road Bridge up to the Wallula Avenue Bridge.
Why are we doing this all this work in the Mill Creek area? According to the Water Distribution Division for the City of Walla Walla, the Mill Creek Watershed supplies 80-90% of the city’s water needs. These projects aim to uphold and enhance water quality for our residents and their water needs. Flood events have damaged private properties and people’s livelihood. These projects work to reduce future flood damage. Mill Creek provides ideal fish habitat and is essential for recovery of the Walla Walla River population of Mid-Columbia Steelhead. We are looking forward to working on these Mill Creek projects with the local community and stakeholder groups. If you have any questions relating to these projects please contact Alison Crowley, Project Manager at firstname.lastname@example.org.