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About Oregon Watershed Councils


The following summary provides basic information on what watershed councils are, why they are important, and where they are in Oregon.

What is a local watershed council and why have one?

As stated in Webster´s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary:

  • Watershed: a region or area bounded peripherally by a water parting and draining ultimately to a particular watercourse or body of water

  • Council: (1) an assembly or meeting for consultation, advice or discussion, (2) a group elected or appointed as an advisory or legislative body, (3b) an executive body whose members are equal in power and authority, (5a) a federation of or a central body uniting a group of organizations


Watershed councils are locally organized, voluntary, non-regulatory groups established to improve the condition of watersheds in their local area. The 1995 Legislature unanimously passed House Bill 3441 providing guidance in establishing watershed councils but making it clear that formation of a council is a local government decision, with no state approval required. Watershed councils are required to represent the interests in the basin and be balanced in their makeup. Watershed councils offer local residents the opportunity to independently evaluate watershed conditions and identify opportunities to restore or enhance the conditions. Through the councils, partnerships between residents, local, state and federal agency staff and other groups can be developed. Through these partnerships and the resulting integration of local efforts, the state´s watersheds can be protected and enhanced.

How is a watershed council formed?

A watershed council is “…a voluntary local organization designated by a local government group convened by a county governing body to address the goal of sustaining natural resource and watershed protection and enhancement within a watershed.” This definition is found in state statute, ORS 541.350, and contains a number of important concepts. The voluntary, local nature of a council is emphasized in the 1995 legislation. It also is clear that the establishment of a watershed council is a local government decision, i.e., city, county, water supply district or sewer district. The two primary guidelines provided by the legislature are: 1) that the watershed council be a voluntary, local group, and 2) the council represents a balance of interested and affected persons within the watershed. State statute does not prescribe the form local recognition must take. Whether a letter, resolution or an order is appropriate is a local government prerogative.

What is the benefit to local communities of forming a watershed council?

Watershed Councils are made up of people from the local communities. They represent local knowledge and have ties to the existing community in all its complexity. Watershed councils work across jurisdictional boundaries and across agency mandates to look at the watershed more holistically. The council can be a forum to bring local, state and federal land management agencies and plans together with local property owners and private land managers. The council forum provides local people a voice in natural resource management that can significantly influence watershed management decisions.

What does a watershed council do?

The legislature has established a goal to enhance Oregon´s waters through the management of riparian and associated upland areas. Local watershed councils are highly effective in the development and implementation of projects to maintain and restore the biological and physical process in the watersheds for the sustainability of their communities. Councils bring varied interests together in a non-regulatory setting to form a common vision for the ecological and economic sustainability and livability of their watershed. Councils often identify landowner participants for important projects, develop priorities for local projects and establish goals and standards for future conditions in the watershed. On-site projects are implemented in an effort to enhance the ability of the watershed to capture, store and beneficially release water. Education projects are undertaken to inform people about watershed processes and functions. Watershed councils provide coordinated, broad-based review of land management plans to local, state and federal decision makers.

Where are watershed councils in Oregon?

A list of watershed councils active in Oregon is available from the OWEB office. OWEB provides funding for education and on-site watershed enhancement projects. OWEB also supports watershed councils by providing grants for project planning, watershed assessments, development of action plans, watershed monitoring and watershed council coordinators and by providing information to assist watershed councils.

Borrowed from:


Click here to find YOUR watershed:

History of Oregon Watershed Councils

1987 – Creation of GWEB (SB 23)The Legislature created the Governor’s Watershed Enhancement Board by passage of Senate Bill 23. GWEB’s mission was twofold: to provide outreach and assistance to private landowners to restore watershed health locally, and to enable the state’s natural resource agencies to work together across bureaucratic and geographic boundaries to achieve better watershed management. To implement this mission, from 1987 to 1995, GWEB funded landowner workshops on land use practices, developed education materials to teach watershed processes to landowners and in local schools, and provided grant funding of $500,000 to $1 million per biennium for watershed restoration demonstration projects.

1993-1995 – The Watershed Health Program (HB 2215) The Oregon Legislature dedicated $10 million to establish local watershed councils and fund watershed restoration in the Grande Ronde Basin and the South Coast of Oregon. The program was administered by the Water Resources Department with staff assigned to teams in each basin and a team in Salem. This effort was separate from the GWEB program.

1995 – Recognition of Watershed Councils (HB 3441) The Legislature passed House Bill 3441 in 1995 that established local governments as the entity responsible for recognizing the formation of watershed councils representative of the interests in their community. Under HB 3441 GWEB became responsible for providing support to locally established watershed councils engaged in a consensus-based approach to watershed improvement.

1997 – The Oregon Plan for Salmon and Watersheds (HB 5042, 5044, and 3700) House Bills 5042, 5044, and 3700 placed the newly created Oregon Plan for Salmon and Watersheds into statute and emphasized the role of local citizens as resource stewards responsible for watershed restoration activities on privately owned lands. The adoption of the Oregon Plan provided a significant increase in funding for locally based restoration efforts.

1997 – The Necanicum Watershed Council is formed.

1998 – Passage of Ballot Measure 66 Ballot Measure 66 amended the Oregon Constitution to set aside 15% of Oregon Lottery revenues to be spent equally on acquisition and maintenance of state parks and to support restoration of native salmonids and watersheds. The Developing and Maintaining Partner Relationships Page 20 of 23 Chapter X March 2002 measure called for the restoration funds to be administered by a single state agency.

1999 – Creation of the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board (HB 3225) House Bill 3225 created the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board (OWEB) as a new state agency to administer the watershed restoration and protection funds made available by Ballot Measure 66, and further refined the Oregon Plan for Salmon and Watersheds. OWEB was charged with continuing and expanding upon GWEB’s support of voluntary local watershed restoration efforts. In addition, the Legislature gave OWEB a variety of coordination and prioritization responsibilities to steer Oregon toward more strategic investments in restoration.

2005 – Necanicum Watershed Council recognized as non-profit 501 (c)(3)

2010 – Passage of Ballot Measure 76 (SB 342) Ballot Measure 76 passed, continuing to dedicate 15% of Oregon Lottery funds to parks and natural resources.

Adapted from the Oregon Association of Conservation Districts: 

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