With BPA support, the Columbia Land Trust is reconstructing one mile of stream bed and adding new tidal channels to improve habitat for fish and wildlife.

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By restoring salmon habitat we’re also improving the land for a multitude of other species. 

Simon Apostol, Columbia Land Trust natural area manager 

The Bonneville Power Administration’s valuable partnership with the Columbia Land Trust is once again producing positive environmental results for endangered salmon and steelhead in the lower Columbia River estuary. This time ratepayer dollars are helping restore wetlands for fish and wildlife in southwest Washington.

The Columbia Land Trust, which BPA has partnered with since 2005 on many other wetland restoration sites, is constructing phase three of its Elochoman River project near the community of Cathlamet. Once complete, the project’s latest phase will restore approximately 140 acres of tidal-spruce swamp along Nelson Creek, a tributary to the Elochoman River. Columbia Land Trust has already completed the first two phases of the project. Once finished, all three phases will restore more than 400 acres of historic wetlands less than a mile from the Columbia River. Construction of this latest phase is scheduled for completion in September and will include Columbia Land Trust planting an impressive 180,000 native trees and shrubs in early 2023.

Decades ago, farmers ditched, diked and moved Nelson Creek to turn the creek bottom and its wetlands into farm land. Over time, the native Sitka spruce swamps and wetlands along the Elochoman River and Nelson Creek were lost. 

“We are turning back the clock on this land,” says Ian Sinks, Columbia Land Trust stewardship director. “With this third phase of the Elochoman Project we’re bringing back the historic floodplain and habitat to benefit fish and wildlife.”  

This phase of the Elochoman Project includes rebuilding approximately one mile of Nelson Creek’s stream bed and carving out another mile of meandering tidal channels to reestablish and reactivate the old floodplain. Scientists say young salmon and steelhead, and many other types of fish and wildlife, depend on these types of historic tidal wetlands for survival. Young salmon use wetlands to hide from predators, and to feed and grow as they migrate to the ocean. 

“By restoring salmon habitat we’re also improving the land for a multitude of other species,” says Simon Apostol, Columbia Land Trust natural area manager. “Waterfowl, amphibians and Columbia white tail deer, which are also listed as federally threatened, live nearby and use these wetlands.”

According to the Columbia Land Trust, since Europeans first arrived in the Northwest, urbanization, agriculture, transportation and industry have altered more than 70% of the Columbia River’s historic Sitka spruce inter-tidal wetlands that young salmon and steelhead need to survive. 

BPA partners with nongovernmental entities such as Columbia Land Trust to meet its obligation for mitigation in the construction and operation of Columbia and Snake river federal dams. Since 2005, BPA ratepayer dollars have helped fund these accomplishments throughout the Columbia River Basin:

  • Nearly 700,000 habitat acres improved.
  • Over 900,000 land acres protected by fencing, purchase or lease.
  • Restored or protected 16,377 acres of estuary floodplain.
  • Enhanced or restored 56 miles of estuarine tidal channels.
  • Constructed eight hatcheries. 
  • Protected 47,000 acres for wildlife.
Decades ago, Nelson Creek was moved from its historic stream bed to make room for farm land. The Columbia Land Trust is now rebuilding the stream and restoring its wetlands to help fish and wildlife.

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