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Stream Restoration Work 'Spawns' Project Award posted on 05/01/2014
Last August, Greg Wanner, the Supervisory Fish Biologist for the Mount Hood National Forest’s Zigzag Ranger District, revisited a site on Still Creek where earlier in July, a restoration project added large wood and helped reconnect the stream to its surrounding ecosystem. 

When he arrived, he immediately saw three steelhead making themselves at home in their refurbished habitat.

“That’s really good gratification that we’re doing what the fish want us to do,” Wanner said.

Now all the organizations involved, the US Forest Service, Oregon Bureau of Land Management and the Freshwater Trust (a coalition of agencies and nonprofits), earned even more gratification by landing a State Land Board Stream Project Award for exceptional stream, wetland and partnership projects for their 2013 work on Still Creek and Salmon River.

Mark McCollister, Habitat Restoration Director for the Freshwater Trust, sees the award and the results as a “milestone” and believes it will build the momentum for future work. McCollister noted the roots for the multi-year effort to restore habitat for federally listed spring Chinook, coho and steelhead in the Sandy River Basin started in 1999 and included nearly a decade of intensive planning to assess, prioritize and develop the restoration plans, plus years of work on the streams.

“Seeing that habitat and fish response, and recognizing all the work by all the contributing partners over time, yielding those outcomes is tremendously rewarding,” McCollister said.

Wanner noted last year’s projects, all performed to undo work done in the 1960s by the Army Corps of Engineers intended to mitigate flooding by increasing the water conveyance, included adding 350 pieces of large wood in a half-mile stretch of Still Creek and reconnecting it to more than a mile of side channels. Projects also added 180 pieces of large wood to parts of Salmon River, turning back the clock and revealing what real Pacific Northwest streams should look like.

“Large wood everywhere (and) water everywhere,” Wanner said, adding that fish biologists from the Willamette National Forest are expected to tour the project sites later this year to see the work.

McCollister noted a benefit of the projects is they contribute to restoring an entire river basin, rather than just isolated parts of a river, resulting in a “synergistic effect of multiple actions over time and space.”

This year, the organizations expect to do more restoration work, including three sites on Still Creek and sites on the Salmon River behind Mt. Hood Village RV Resort & Campground and by Miller Quarry. Wanner noted the majority of the work on Still Creek is expected to be finished by 2018.

The work this year is expected to take three weeks sometime during July and August when there is the least impact on the fish, and up to 200 pieces of large wood are expected to be used.

by Garth Guibord/MT
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