Photo: Olive and Blu Photography.

Meta Provides $50,000 Grant to Support Ochoco Preserve and Crooked River Restoration Projects

Oct 12, 2022 by Sarah Mowry
The funding will support habitat restoration and community access at Ochoco Preserve, as well as help construct a fish passage solution for salmon and steelhead in Ochoco Creek.

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Meta has awarded a $50,000 grant to the Deschutes Land Trust and the Crooked River Watershed Council in support of two local conservation projects. The funding will support habitat restoration and community access at Ochoco Preserve, as well as help construct a fish passage solution for salmon and steelhead in Ochoco Creek.

“Meta is committed to sustainability and environmental stewardship, and we’re proud to support these two Prineville-area restoration projects,” said William Marks, community development manager at Meta. “Not only will they help provide healthier habitats for salmon and steelhead trout, but the Ochoco Preserve project will also benefit the community by providing increased access and education to this premier local wildlife site.”

Ochoco Preserve was conserved by the Deschutes Land Trust in 2017 and includes approximately one mile of the Crooked River and the confluences of Ochoco Creek and McKay Creek, two of the largest tributaries in the lower Crooked River basin. The preserve has been identified by state fish biologists as important for fisheries conservation and salmon and steelhead reintroduction. It is home to a variety of regionally and locally important native fish, including Chinook salmon, steelhead trout and redband trout.

The Meta grant will support the creation of new floodplains and wetlands at the preserve, which will allow the waterways to store and release cleaner, cooler water back into the river system. Part of the habitat restoration will also include adding more side channels and natural structures to improve habitat for fish and wildlife.

The grant will also support the creation of new paths and a bridge that connects the Ochoco Preserve to the City of Prineville’s Crooked River Wetlands Complex, a property that features wetlands, public walking and biking paths, and habitat enhancements along the river. The Crooked River Wetlands Complex is also a popular outdoor education setting for local schools; connecting it to the Ochoco Preserve will expand local public access and educational opportunities.

“We’re so grateful that this funding from Meta will help us get closer to building a new, more robust Ochoco Preserve,” said Rika Ayotte, Deschutes Land Trust executive director. “The end result will be much healthier creeks and rivers for our local community, and some new amazing trails and educational opportunities in the coming years.”

The grant from Meta also supports the Ochoco Fish Passage project on Ochoco Creek, upstream of Prineville. The project will eliminate an existing diversion barrier that currently blocks salmon from accessing the last two miles of habitat below the Ochoco Dam. The barrier will be replaced by an open channel “roughened riffle,” which allows fish to swim past the diversion site using a more natural feature.

This is one of the last fish passage projects in the entire lower Crooked River geography, and it concludes the council’s Connecting Waters program that addressed 12 major barriers to fish movement and full utilization of available habitat. The program was initiated in 2007, which provides a sense of the time period and durable commitment required to achieve this goal.

“It is exciting to expand our partners in this project by adding Meta to the collaborative list,” said Chris Gannon, Crooked River Watershed Council director. “These projects are inherently challenging, and securing necessary levels of funding is the first key to success. We very much appreciate this generous donation.”

Meta has been a part of Central Oregon since it broke ground on its Prineville Data Center in 2010.