BPA Generates Preservationby Tyler Graf
The Daily Astorian, April 6, 2012
The Columbia Land Trust and Bonneville Power Administration announced this week the acquisition of 560 acres near the mouth of the Columbia River to permanently protect riverside habitat for Northwest fish and wildlife.
The purchase of three properties directly across from Astoria and near Ilwaco, Wash., is intended to protect Oregon and Washington's threatened and endangered juvenile steelhead and salmon populations.
The Columbia Land Trust will provide stewardship for the land, previously a mix of privately and bank-owned properties. The properties includes 117 acres at the mouth of the Wallicut River, 378 acres at Knappton Cove, roughly opposite Astoria in Washington, and 65 acres of tidelands, floodplains and uplands at the mouth of the Deep River.
Glenn Lamb, executive director of the Columbia Land Trust, says his agency will perform restoration work to remove invasive species and restore the hydrological function of the land.
"It's a crucially important time and place for the fish to be acclimatized," Lamb said. "That's why projects in this area are so important to the fish of the entire Columbia Basin."
The Columbia Land Trust will perform some full-scale, active restoration work on the properties, Lamb said.
BPA purchased the land for $1.1 million and will receive what's known as a "conservation easement" for the new properties as a way to ensure that the habitat stays protected in the future. The easement will protect the land from development in perpetuity, even if it's sold to another party.
BPA is calling the purchase a significant land acquisition because of its location at the mouth of the Columbia River. Migrating fish use the route, as they transform from saltwater to freshwater fish.
"Science is showing that the Columbia River estuary, from Astoria to the Bonneville Dam, is very important to the life cycle of migrating juvenile salmon," said Mike Hansen, a spokesman for BPA. "The more nourishing environment we can create, the easier this miracle transformation can take place."
Hansen says he expects the newly acquired land to protect a variety of fish species, including coho, chinook and chum salmon, in addition to steelhead and cutthroat trout. Terrestrial wildlife such as black bear, elk and river otter, are also expected to see gains, Hansen said.
BPA's land acquisition is the latest conservation move by the agency, which funds one of the world's largest environmental restoration programs as the result of a federal mandate.
Land acquisition for wildlife protection is meant to offset the impacts of federally owned hydroelectric dams located on the Columbia and Snake river systems and is part of a federal biological opinion governing the operation of dams. The biological opinion has been revised over time.
Since the 1980s, BPA has purchased roughly 413,000 acres throughout the Columbia River basin. Earlier in the year, BPA purchased 920 acres in Columbia County for $5.3 million.
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