By Bill Lundquist
Pilot Staff Writer
The 2002 Chetco Checkup held Friday produced some good news for fish.
About two dozen volunteers recorded temperature readings along the Chetco River and its tributaries.
Watershed Monitor Cindy Myers said preliminary readings showed surface temperatures 2-5 degrees lower than in previous years.
She hypothesized the smoke from forest fires had reduced direct sunlight hitting the river, resulting in lower surface temperatures, which are better for fish.
Myers said temperatures on the bottom were similar to those recorded the day before, when more sun filtered down and warmed the river's bed and banks.
She said cooler water is good for fish, but only time will tell whether sediment washing into the river this winter from burned-off forests will outweigh the positive effects of the forest fire.
She said falling ash has so far increased turbidity in the rivers, but only slightly.
Fish will also be happy to hear that the water in both boat basins at the Port of Brookings Harbor has far more dissolved oxygen than anyone expected.
As part of a special monitoring project Myers had arranged, water at the boat basins and estuary was sampled repeatedly at six sites during the day and tested in her new mobile laboratory.
Frank Burris, watershed extension agent, said the water at the port was holding all the oxygen it could at that temperature.
He said the morning samples showed the dissolved oxygen level at most sampling sites to be 100 percent, with slightly lower readings in the commercial basins of 98-99 percent.
Burris said readings of 178 percent were taken where the ocean waves supercharge the river with oxygen.
He said readings can also exceed 100 percent upstream where riffles mix oxygen into the river.
"We're pleased," said Burris. "We expected to see lower numbers than that."
He said the port's new aerators are probably unnecessary most of the time, but could "I would suggest just running the aerators when the anchovies show up," said Burris. "It might save some money."
The good news about dissolved oxygen was discovered right away, thanks to Myers' new mobile lab.
Measurements for nutrients in the port's water had to be sent to a lab in Medford, and forest fires played a role in that story too.
U.S. Highway 199 was still closed on Friday due to a smaller blaze. Burris, a pilot, planned to fly the water samples to Medford himself, but the plane he was going to use ended up grounded by smoke in Sacramento.
Lee Garvin, another Chetco Checkup volunteer and pilot for Cal-Ore Life Flight, came to the rescue.
He learned a Cal-Ore plane was flying to Medford, and put the water samples on board.
The port work was part of a larger monitoring project being conducted by Myers and Birgit Knoblauch. It was part of the Chetco Checkup for the first time this year.
Myers said she plans to take port samples on two other days this year, or three if she can find the extra funding.
The port sampling is part of a larger project funded by the South Coast and Lower Rogue watershed councils. Myers will repeatedly sample 16 sites on Curry County rivers.
As suggested by Port Manager Russ Crabtree, she will sample both the sport and commercial boat basins.
The samples were actually taken by Knoblauch and David DiLucca, while Myers, assisted by Morgan Kocher, ran the lab tests.
At the end of the day, volunteers met at Loeb State Park to exchange information and feast on barbecued chicken and watermelon.
As Myers and Kocher entered the readings into a laptop computer on a picnic table, they noticed a chilling pattern.
Most surface readings were 67-68 degrees, with bottom readings of 68-69 degrees. All readings were cooler than last year.
Burris agreed with Myers that the forest fire smoke could explain the difference.
More puzzling was a 62.8 degree reading above Mill Creek. Myers said it could be evidence of an under-river spring.
She was anxious to make graphs out of the data and present them to the Chetco Watershed Council at 7 tonight (Aug. 7) in the lower conference room at The Pilot newspaper.
The watershed council also paid for 2002 Chetco Checkup T-shirts, designed by Dick Laskey.
The inflatable craft used in the port sampling project was also on loan from Laskey.