File photo by Fran BerteauSandy 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
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