This is the ultimate feel-good project because you put all this work into it and then you get to see the direct result: the native plants, salmon, the amphibians and reptiles returning to the site and directly benefiting from the work that we've done.Jason R. Smith, senior habitat restoration project manager with the Columbia River Estuary Study Taskforce
Since 2004, the Land Board has been recognizing exceptional contributions to thriving Oregon waterways, wetlands, and lands.
This year, the Palensky-McCarthy Creek Restoration Project near Sauvie Island in Multnomah County, received the state’s Wetland Award. The project improved important floodplain habitat for salmon species, western painted turtles, northern red legged frogs, and other native wetland species.
With BPA funding, the project removed undersized culverts and fish barriers, added bridges and beaver dam structures, planted native vegetation, and created swales to reconnect more than 280 acres of floodplain habitat to the Multnomah Channel for the first time in 150 years.
“This is the ultimate feel-good project because you put all this work into it and then you get to see the direct result: the native plants, salmon, the amphibians and reptiles returning to the site and directly benefiting from the work that we've done,” said Jason R. Smith, senior habitat restoration project manager with the Columbia River Estuary Study Taskforce (CREST), which led the project.
“Project partners worked tirelessly to determine a path forward for managing this site for fish as well as wildlife. This BPA-funded project reestablished access for juvenile fish and has increased floodplain connectivity to hundreds of acres of protected wetland habitat along Multnomah Channel, which provides numerous benefits to juvenile salmon and steelhead as they make their way out to the open ocean,” says Anne Creason, BPA fish and wildlife biologist.
Besides funding the project, BPA owns the 423-acre John R. Palensky Wildlife Area which is part of the project site. The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) manages the site for migratory birds, amphibians, and fish. ODFW biologists provided key design input for the restoration project in an effort to provide habitat benefits to a range of fish and wildlife species.
Other project partners included the Natural Resources Conservation Service, West Multnomah Soil and Water Conservation District, Wolf Water Resources, PC Trask and Associates, BCI Contracting, and the Enyart family.
The Wallowa River Project
Another BPA-funded project received the state’s Stream Award. The Wilson Haun Wallowa River Project restored a milelong stretch of Wallowa River that runs through a family ranch near Lostine, OR. The ranch has been home to five generations of Wilson and Haun families. And the river is home to many fish species, including chinook salmon, summer steelhead and bull trout.
With BPA funding that paid for much of the habitat restoration effort, Trout Unlimited and the landowners worked to reconnect the Wallowa’s floodplain and restore important spawning and rearing salmon habitat. Work included adding side channels, placing logs, building beaver dam structures, and planting thousands of native trees.
“Attracting beavers was a big goal,” said Ian Wilson, a trained fisheries biologist and restoration project manager for the Grande Ronde Model Watershed. “We wanted them to take over the long-term stewardship, and not rely on future man-made intervention,” he said. “We wanted the original stream restorers to come in and do their thing.”
Within two months of project completion and for the first time in nearly 25 years, beavers got back to work as stewards of the stream.
“It’s exciting to see what can happen when the region works together to improve salmon and steelhead habitat,” says Tracy Hauser, a BPA fish and wildlife project manager. “This project is already showing impressive results for salmon, beaver and other native species.”
Other project partners include Wolf Water Resources, BCI Contracting, Anabranch Solutions, Plantworks, and Wildlands. Partners included the Wallowa Implementation Team: the Nez Perce Tribe, U.S. Forest Service, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, Wallowa Resources, and NOAA Fisheries.
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