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A helicoptor moves wood.
Salmon restoration efforts spawning success posted on 09/01/2018

For nearly a decade, members of the Sandy River Basin Partners (SRBP) have built log structures, placed boulders, replanted native species and reconnected channels in efforts to return degraded river habitats to breeding grounds for endangered salmon and steelhead in the Mount Hood region.    

“We’re trying to reset the clock where we can,” said Greg Wanner, supervisory fish biologist for the U.S. Forest Service (USFS). “We’re trying to get back to historic conditions.”

The projects have achieved recent success with work on Still Creek, resulting in the creek being officially declared on a trajectory to being restored, according to Jeff Fisher, habitat monitoring coordinator for the Freshwater Trust (FWT). The FWT and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) also completed a significant project at the Wildwood Recreation Area on the Salmon River this August.

“We are confident from extensive monitoring that we have put back what we need to in the river to restore the habitat,” said Fisher. The FWT reports a 350 percent increase in winter steelhead on the river between 1998 and 2016.

During the course of the projects, the FTW placed 196 large wood structures on the two waterways and more than 3,000 pieces of large wood.

In 1964, the Army Corps of Engineers straightened sections of the Salmon River and removed large wood and rocks from the floodplain in response to a historic flood. This attempt to reduce flooding instead unnaturally enlarged the water flow and increased the likelihood of flooding. The engineering efforts also decreased habitat diversity, and as a result, native fish populations.

“In the past we thought we could engineer our way out of problems. Now we think of how we can work with nature and not fight her,” said Wanner about the current efforts to return the bodies of water to their natural state.

The placement of large wood creates deep pools, returns stream complexity and provides refuge and spawning habitat. Restoration efforts aim to reconnect the rivers and streams to their historic floodplains and create side channels for spawning.

“Since we started in 2012 we’ve been seeing Coho Salmon smolts increase (in Still Creek),” said Wanner. “There are areas of Still Creek that haven’t seen water in 50 years that we now have salmon spawning in.”

Almost all work completed on the Salmon River has been done on BLM land. Wood provided by the BLM and USFS have allowed the projects to be completed at a fraction of the cost.

“It’s a six-mile stretch that we’ve been able to accomplish a huge amount,” stated Fisher.

Restoration efforts will continue in the region with projects on Lost and Cast creeks underway this summer.

SRBP work at Lost Creek is scheduled for completion in 2019.

“(We’ve) just made incredible progress restoring habitat working with our partners,” said Jennifer Velez, BLM spokeswoman.

The 12 members of the SRBP include: Association of Northwest Steelheaders, Bureau of Land Management, City of Portland Water Bureau, Clackamas County Department of Transportation and Development, East Multnomah County Soil and Water Conservation District, National Marine Fisheries Service, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, The Freshwater Trust, Sandy River Basin Watershed Council, The Nature Conservancy, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and U.S. Forest Service.

By Benjamin Simpson/MT




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