Three-Year Grant Supports Continued Sandy Basin RestorationSeptember 22, 2020
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Restoration Center has selected The Freshwater Trust (TFT) as a partner in a three-year cooperative agreement that will provide more than $1 million to restore salmon and steelhead habitat on prioritized reaches of the Sandy River basin. The first year of funding, recently awarded by NOAA, totals more than $360,000.
TFT will collaborate with NOAA, the United States Forest Service (USFS) and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to restore flow to two miles of side channels, connect more than 100 acres of floodplains, and improve habitat through placement of more than 2,000 pieces of large wood on more than 10.8 miles of stream. This work will benefit three species listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act: coho salmon, spring and fall Chinook, and winter steelhead.
The award to TFT was part of nearly $13 million in funding recently announced by NOAA to support 31 new and continuing habitat restoration projects across 15 states. Elsewhere in the Pacific Northwest, these partnerships will remove fish barriers along the Rogue River and in Oregon’s Tillamook and Nestucca watersheds.
“Habitat restoration plays a crucial role in NOAA’s work to recover salmon, steelhead, and other threatened and endangered species,” said Carrie Selberg Robinson, director of the NOAA Fisheries Office of Habitat Conservation. “TFT has worked for years to restore much-needed habitat in the Pacific Northwest, and NOAA is pleased to support their continued work in the Sandy River basin.”
The funding comes through NOAA’s Community-based Restoration Program, which has worked with nearly 3,000 organizations to take on more than 2,180 projects since 1996. These efforts have restored more than 92,000 acres of habitat and opened up 4,126 miles of streams and rivers to fish migration.
TFT has partnered with NOAA in the past, receiving funding from a variety of programs focused on restoring fish habitat.
“The Sandy is one of TFT’s flagship basins,” said Mark McCollister, habitat restoration director with TFT. “We began restoring it with a set of strategic partners more than a decade ago. Adding the technical expertise and funding support of NOAA will be hugely beneficial as we tackle the next set of actions and reaches on the priority list.”
This work adds to the nearly 30 restoration projects that TFT has already implemented on the ground in the Sandy River basin.
“In the early 2000s, we started work in this basin with the goal of making it a better place for these threatened species,” said McCollister. “Fortunately, we are seeing powerful indications that it’s working.”
Datasets on fish abundance tracked since the beginning of restoration work on two priority Sandy subwatersheds show that the number of Salmon River steelhead smolts, a young salmon or trout, have increased from 3,400 in 2010 to more than 27,000 in 2018, and the number of Salmon River coho smolts have increased from 11,000 smolts to more than 25,000 smolts over the same period. The number of Still Creek steelhead smolts have increased from 138 smolts to more than 1,900. And the number of Still Creek coho smolts have increased from 3,900 to more than 8,300 smolts from 2010 to 2018.
TFT’s addition of large wood and gravel to the area over the years, with support from a wide array of funders, including Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board, Patagonia, Pacific Power, City of Portland and more, has helped increase water on the floodplain, reconnect side channels and provide more complex habitat for native fish species.
In the 1960s, the Army Corps removed nearly all the logs from this basin and others nationwide, assuming they contributed to flooding. It was later understood that these actions actually increased the rate at which water was moving, exacerbating flooding and removing critical habitat for native fish populations.
“Slowly, surely and strategically, we’ve replaced what was removed,” said McCollister. “And three consecutive years of funding and a strong partnership with NOAA will really help us to take another big step forward.”
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