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Yachats Mayor Talks About Water Shortage

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Yachats is in a water shortage emergency. Residents are restricted on when they can water outdoors.

One of the reasons water is scarce is because a private timber company logged in the salmon creek watershed the feeds into the Yachats River. A provision of city charter had prevented Yachats from purchasing the watershed land before the logging took place.

KLCC's Rachael McDonald spoke with Yachats Mayor Ron Brean. He says despite the coastal climate, it's been dry.

Brean: It didn’t rain quite as much this year at in normally does. And we are dependent on watersheds from the various rivers that each of our Oregon coastal communities, in Yachats it's tributaries to the Yachats River, that provide our water. And those are relatively small watersheds and when you have diminished rain on them obviously less water comes down those watersheds. And this year happens to be a pretty dry year. In any given year, we watch those watersheds to see, as we progress towards the fall, how much water is there, and we've come close a number of times. But this year there's much less water than there was.

McDonald: And you said Reedy Creek and Salmon Creek are the two?

Brean: Those are the two tributaries to the Yachats River that we tap.

McDonald: The Salmon Creek Watershed, I understand, has been logged that may have affected the water supply from that creek?

Brean: Yeah. I mean I think its safe to say without contradiction that the Salmon Creek Watershed has been compromised. Half the watershed has been clearcut. It is privately owned land and is owned by a timber company and they're harvesting their trees for profit and that means that half the watershed does not have the ability to retain water and meter it out the way that it typically would. So the water comes off the watershed faster when there aren’t trees there to hold it. And as we get towards the end of the dryer season that means that water will probably be gone entirely and it won't be a source for us.

McDonald: This possibility was something that you did see coming?

Brean: Oh sure. I mean we made some efforts along with some other partners to try and secure that watershed. We just couldn’t get the right deal together with the right capabilities at the right time and so we are where we are.

McDonald: So going back to where we are. Now that there's been a change in city charter you could go forward with something like this. But at this point is it too late?

Brean: Well, you mean could we close the barn door now that the horses are out? Yeah, we do have the ability to negotiate land deals, I'm not sure that its all that prudent for us to do that at this point in time. The savings going forward are not going to be imminent. Certainly, we're going to look at long-term protection of that watershed for future generations of people who live in Yachats. But at the moment it's not a priority to try to run out and try and buy it. It's not going to save us this time.

Yachats Mayor Ron Brean says the city is currently in phase one of water restrictions. Phase 2 is imminent. He says Yachats is looking at long term water supply initiatives, including building a storage reservoir.


Rachael McDonald is KLCC’s host for All Things Considered on weekday afternoons. She also is the editor of the KLCC Extra, the daily digital newspaper. Rachael has a BA in English from the University of Oregon. She started out in public radio as a newsroom volunteer at KLCC in 2000.
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