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File photo by Fran Berteau
Sandy and Salmon River projects net $2 million posted on 01/01/2019

The fates of the Sandy and Salmon rivers, along with the life force of wild salmon, have merged into one.

The Sandy River Watershed Council (SRWC) hooked a $1 million award in November, and that, combined with an already secured $1 million forms a two-year project that will mitigate flood risk and improve fish habitat along the area where the two wild rivers meet.

“The beauty of this project is that the steps to restoring habitat for wild salmon are also the best path to reduce flood risk for nearby homes, roads and other essential community infrastructure,” said Steve Wise, executive director of SRWC.

Despite levees built by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers where the Salmon River flows into the Sandy, intense floods and channel migration ensued in the following years up to 2017.

Following the flood events, science determined that levees are powerless to hold back rivers, and also have unintended consequences. Levees cut off fish from key floodplain habitat and simply disperse the river’s energy in major floods.

The work – which will launch in the spring of 2019, spearheaded by the SRWC – will restore floodplains across 418 acres along 1-mile of floodplain at the confluence of the Sandy and Salmon rivers.

Parts of levees will be removed allowing the rivers to access currently isolated channels, and log jams will be added to disperse river energy with the added benefit of providing hidden refuge and feeding areas for migrating salmon and steelhead.

The twin rivers are a salmon stronghold, a place where fish populations have rebounded since the removal of the Marmot Dam in 2007.

“Climate change is bringing more frequent and intense storm events in our region,” Wise said. “Extreme high-water events are part of the new normal under climate change, but restoring the floodplain can reduce the risk of negative impacts.”

In addition to the award from the National Coastal Resilience Fund, SRWC has received funding from the Clackamas Soil and Water Conservation District, Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board and the Portland Water Bureau.

The SRWC will be reaching out to the community soon to raise awareness about the project, communicate the benefits to the community, answer questions, and hear the community concerns.

By Larry Berteau/MT

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