Drone footage of a recent habitat restoration project at Batwater Station near Clatskanie, Oregon. The project restored a tidally-influenced floodplain wetland along the Columbia River by removing a 500-foot long section of levee, constructing 1600 feet of tidal channels, and replanting the site with thousands of native shrubs, trees, and wetland plants. The project opens up rearing and refuge habitat for salmon, steelhead, and other wildlife.
Construction of the project was completed in September 2015 and this aerial footage was taken one year later to monitor the site’s progress.
Salem – The State Land Board at their April 12 meeting presented two 2015 Wetland Project Awards for projects in Columbia County: the Batwater Station Floodplain Restoration in Clatskanie, and the Sauvie Island – North Unit Restoration in the Sauvie Island Wildlife Area.
Department of State Lands Director Jim Paul thanked the project partners for “promoting responsible, sustainable stewardship of state natural resources. It’s encouraging to know about and honor outstanding projects taking place throughout Oregon.”
This is the 12th year of presenting Land Board Awards.
Batwater Station Floodplain Restoration Project
Located on property owned by Karin Hunt, the project involved restoring wetlands on a 26-acre section of the property and reconnecting it to the Columbia River.
Governor Kate Brown, chair of the Land Board, presented the award and praised the collaborative effort as a “wonderful example of how non-profit organizations worked with a private landowner to voluntarily preserve wetlands” for fish and wildlife habitat. She also commended the property owner for including people in the equation: Hunt allows camping on the property, which has 14 tent sites and kayaks available for campers.
“We have such strong partnerships in our area, and we are all so pleased that the Batwater Station project was honored by the State Land Board,” said Kari Olsen-Hollander, manager of the Columbia Soil and Water Conservation District, who nominated the project for an award.
The Land Board recognized the following partner agencies in the project: Columbia Soil and Water Conservation District, Lower Columbia River Watershed Council, Lower Columbia Estuary Partnership and Bonneville Power (funder), and landowner Karin Hunt.
The project involved constructing tidal channels, installing large woody debris, altering the topography, and planting native shrubs and trees to replace invasive reed canary grass.
Olsen-Hollander said the project planners used innovative restoration strategies from “The Beaver Restoration Guide Book” which touts modeling beaver behavior for restoring habitat for fish, waterfowl, amphibians and reptiles. Olsen-Hollander said that if the techniques prove to be successful over time, there could be significant cost savings in using them in designing future conservation projects.
Last summer the Columbia County Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) partnered with the Lower Columbia River Watershed Council (LCRWC), the Lower Columbia Estuary Partnership (LCEP), and several other conservation agencies to undertake an exciting restoration project in Clatskanie, OR. The area called “Louisiana Swamp” is a 45 acre property adjacent to the Westport Slough. Historically, this area was a freshwater marsh boasting a healthy wetland ecosystem that included several species of salmon. The property was also naturally bisected by Tandy Creek which is known to contain Coho, Chinook and Steelhead salmon populations.
In more recent years “Louisiana Swamp,” owned by the Lower Columba River Tree Farm LLC and managed by GreenWood Resources, Inc., has lost a lot of its ecological function and value. In the 1930s the Department of War (now the Army Corps. of Engineers) installed levees throughout the area to facilitate conversion of the land to agriculture. In the 1950s Louisiana Swamp was cleared, floodgates were installed, and Tandy Creek was rechannelized through the property in an effort to convert it to pastureland. Despite these modifications to the land, Louisiana Swamp turned out to be unsuitable for grazing. The levees were poorly built resulting in periodic flooding and a high groundwater table. At the time this project was identified, the tide gates were no longer functional and reed canary grass had taken over most of the pastureland.
The artificial changes to Louisiana Swamp resulted in a lack of floodplain connectivity, homogenization of habitat, and a loss of native species. The Louisiana Swamp is just one piece of important habitat that has been lost along the Lower Columbia River’s system of freshwater tidal floodplains as a result of diking, filling, and installation of flood control structures. Managers estimate that around 70% of natural scrub-shrub habitat in the area has been lost since the early to mid 1900s mainly to clear the way for agriculture. When the land manager, Rick Stonex, approached the SWCD for help with the property, the agency saw an opportunity to restore a crucial piece of habitat back to a natural and ecologically productive state. k The Louisiana Swamp project presented a great opportunity for conservation agencies to partner together to achieve a common goal. The LCRWC submitted an application for funds to the Lower Columbia River Estuary Partnership in February 2013. Funding for the project came from LCEP and an OWEB grant. LCRWC contributed labor and GreenWood Resources Inc. contributed some of the materials for the large wood placement and also agreed to perform future monitoring of the site. US Fish and Wildlife handled all federal permitting for the project and the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife performed fish salvage.
In addition to the predicted ecological benefits of this project, there were economic advantages for the local community as well. The project was designed by Lower Columbia Engineering and implemented by a local construction company, Kynsi Construction. All of the large wood purchased for use in restoring in-stream habitat came from Columbia County and all of the native plants were purchased in Vancouver.
The restoration plan included the elimination of the two failing tidal gates that disconnected 35 acres of the property from the other 10 as well as from Westport Slough and prevented fish passage. The plan also called for the restoration of Tandy Creek to its original state, reconnection of floodplains, creation of off-channel habitat, improvement of in-stream habitat with large wood placements, and restoration of the native plant community. Agency workers believed that all of these actions would result in improved rearing and refuge habitat for juvenile salmon as well as quality habitat for many other wildlife species including waterfowl, neotropical and songbirds, beavers, reptiles, amphibians, and deer.
The project was completed in the summer of 2013 with the exception of the planting phase. Managers state that there are approximately 30,000 trees as well as an abundance of herbaceous plants that still need to be planted. With the natural hydrology of the site restored, faulty tidal gates removed, and landowners who are committed to the project’s future success, Louisiana Swamp is expected to become a sanctuary for many wildlife species struggling to survive in a landscape dominated by human manipulation.