Kerry Island lies along an 11-mile side channel of the Columbia River and will provide potential food resources and valuable cover for juvenile salmon headed to the ocean. (Courtesy)
Reintroduction of tidally influenced scrub-shrub and forested wetland will benefit salmonBPA recently partnered with the Columbia Land Trust to purchase the 109-acre Kerry Island in Westport Slough to provide habitat for fish and wildlife in the estuary. Kerry Island, about four miles from the community of Westport, Ore., and eight miles from Clatskanie, Ore., lies along an 11-mile side channel of the Columbia River.“Kerry Island is a great example where we can reconnect some of the lowlands to tidal flows,” said Jason Karnezis, a project manager for BPA’s Fish and Wildlife Program. “This would not only increase potential food resources for salmon and steelhead, but also provide a variety of environment complexity that means areas for fish to hide or rest in.” Once restored, Kerry Island will provide permanent refuge to numerous wildlife species, including all 13 species of salmon and steelhead listed under the Endangered Species Act as well as the federally endangered Columbia River population of Columbian white-tailed deer. “The Columbia River estuary is a particularly vital nursery for young salmon,” said Glenn Lamb, Columbia Land Trust executive director. “In the last 10 years, we have worked collaboratively with many landowners to conserve nearly 10,000 acres of estuarine and tributary spawning and rearing habitat.”Kerry Island had been owned the Jenks family since 1946. Chester Jenks and his wife, Cleo, raised their six children on the land, and ran a cattle and hay farm there until they retired in the early 2000s. In 2010, the family contacted Columbia Land Trust with an interest in selling the land for conservation. “In retirement, Dad and Mom loved to fish for salmon,” said Steve Jenks, the youngest of the children. “Converting the island back to perpetual salmon and wildlife habitat seems a fitting way to honor both our parents.”Kerry Island presents an opportunity to improve and restore critical wetland habitat for at-risk plants and animals. Historically, Kerry Island consisted of tidally influenced scrub-shrub and forested wetlands and channels in the Columbia River floodplain. Scrub-shrub wetlands provide ideal nesting habitat for local and migrating neotropical birds, critical breeding and egg-laying habitat for a suite of amphibians, as well as cover and shade for rearing salmonids.“Current research suggests that migrating juvenile salmon throughout the Columbia Basin access estuary wetland sites immediately after restoration,” says Matt Van Ess, habitat restoration program manager for the Columbia River Estuary Study Taskforce. “The Kerry Island project will provide immediate benefits to the Columbia by increasing wetland function and food-web connections for fish and numerous other species that depend on the estuary for life.” Columbia Land Trust completed the purchase of Kerry Island with $320,000 in Bonneville Power Administration funding from electric ratepayers. The funding was provided as partial mitigation for the impacts of federal dams on the ecosystems of the Columbia and Snake Rivers.Over the next year, Columbia Land Trust will develop a management plan for Kerry Island, drawing on input from the public with final approval from BPA. That plan will be made available on Columbia Land Trust’s website..