Another $300K Dedicated to Fixing the Sandy

May 14, 2019

On April 25, Habitat Restoration Director Mark McCollister received word from the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board (OWEB) that they had approved our request for more than $300,000 in grant funding for continued restoration work in the Sandy basin this summer.

These funds will help The Freshwater Trust (TFT), the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management continue to address issues impacting native fish habitat in the river basin just northeast of the city of Portland. This specific award will increase habitat and floodplain connectivity and large wood abundance in the Salmon River and Clear Fork, in the upper section of the watershed.

TFT has secured nearly $1.8 million from OWEB for work in this basin over the past 11 years.

“I feel fortunate and excited every time we receive funding to fix something else here,” said McCollister. “This is obviously just one more chapter in our multi-year restoration effort. Piece by piece, and summer after summer, we’re getting there.”

Due to the work of the Sandy River Basin Partners, a coalition of government agencies, local watershed council, and nonprofit organizations, hundreds of  different projects have been put on the ground in the basin since 2008 – resulting in more than 10,000 linear feet of stream restored. These projects are part of a basin-scale restoration plan developed by the Partners years ago.

“Nearly all of our work here centers upon the idea of adding complexity back into the system,” said McCollister. “We put logs back where they naturally would be and that helps create side channels and put more water on the floodplain. We add boulders and spawning-sized gravel so that fish have suitable places to deposit eggs.”

With every project implemented, TFT and the Partners reduce the impacts of historic actions, such as clearcutting, development, and the straightening of river channels. In the mid-1970s, every single tree in the Clear Fork – including wood in the stream – was removed for timber harvest in the upper two miles of the watershed. Following a major flood in 1964, sections of the Salmon River from the confluence with the Sandy River upstream to the South Fork Salmon River were straightened and diked as part of flood control activities.

“What we’re up against is a legacy of pretty significant system alteration,” said McCollister. “Fortunately, the plan that TFT and the Partners have created prioritizes the places where our efforts will have the greatest impact, which means we aren’t shooting the dark. We have specific goals that are met as the needed funds are raised.”

The most recent grant award will support three main objectives. First, TFT will restore year-round flow to four side channels along the Salmon River. By excavating new inlets, juvenile salmon and steelhead will have calm, cool places to take refuge. More than 130 new pieces of wood will also be added to the Salmon River via helicopter. These pieces will form wood structures that are 15 to 40 pieces large. Similar structures will be built on Clear Fork. Construction will begin this July.

“With enough funding and careful and strategic selection of the best projects, we will eventually de-list endangered salmon and steelhead in this basin,” said McCollister. “Every year, we’re seeing more fish return here because of this work and it convinces me we can achieve that.”

#Sandy River Basin