Corps to Restore Islandby CBB Staff
An island in the lower Columbia River estuary that has been used for decades as pastureland will be restored to something close to its original condition, providing new estuary habitat for juvenile salmon and steelhead.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is planning to begin the three-year restoration project at Crims Island, near Clatskanie, Ore. (river mile 57) in August. Working with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Corps said the project, which will cost more than $3.8 million, will benefit several species of wildlife, including salmon, deer and waterfowl.
The Corps released its environmental assessment for the project this week and is asking for public review and comment by May 25, 2004. That is just one step in the process that will allow the Corps to begin excavation work at the island. It also must complete an internal Corps review and obtain a biological opinion from NOAA Fisheries, which already is reviewing the BA, according to Geoff Dorsey, wildlife biologist with the Corps' Portland District Environmental Resources Branch.
Agricultural activities have taken over a significant portion of the island where there once was a riparian forest and tidal marsh, Dorsey said. When completed, the project will improve tidal inundation and provide better habitat for juvenile salmon. He added that the improvements will eventually result in better access for juvenile fish, as well as making available more tidal matter (detritus) and organisms that juvenile fish eat.
The Corps said that restoring habitat for juvenile salmon in the estuary is a component of regional salmon recover plans, including the Northwest Power and Conservation Council's 2000 Columbia Basin Fish and Wildlife Program and the NOAA Fisheries 2000 biological opinion of the Federal Columbia River Power System. In addition, it will help in the USFWS in its recovery efforts for the Columbian white-tailed deer.
Dorsey said the project is in keeping with the NOAA Fisheries BiOp, which calls for restoring up to 10,000 acres of tidal and riparian lands in the lower Columbia River estuary.
The first year cost of the project -- about $750,000 -- already has been allocated to the Corps through its Lower Columbia River Ecosystem Restoration Program, authorized under Section 536 of the Water Resource Development Act of 2000, said the Corps' Matt Rabe. In addition, President George Bush's 2005 budget includes $2 million for the project, also under Sec. 536, and an allocation will be sought in 2006, as well, in order to complete the $3,874,800 project.
According to the Corps' notice, it and the USFWS will "restore 92 acres of native tidal emergent marsh, mudflat, and side channel habitats; restore tidal flow to 88 acres of forested swamp/freshwater marsh; and reestablish 115 acres of native riparian forest habitat" on the island. However, 88 acres of the project is contingent on the purchase of land by the USFWS. Dorsey said that purchase of land, which is now owned by the Columbia Land Trust, should be completed in May.
After a channel into the interior of the island is plugged and a tidegate is put in place to dewater the area, a Corps contractor will begin in August shaving two feet of dirt off about 92 acres of tidal marsh and constructing tidal channels. That will eventually allow a different hydrologic regime and more tidal inundation of that portion of the island, but in the short term in may result in less productivity during project construction and about two to three years afterwards while vegetation takes root. Once the project is completed, the plug and tidegate will be removed. That will restore a tidal connection with the Columbia River, the Corps said. And, the contractor will build another channel that connects the tidal marsh restoration area to Bradbury Slough and the Columbia River.
The dirt removed from the 92 acres will be disposed on what is now cattle pasture, Dorsey said, and that will become riparian forest habitat. That higher portion of the island is also being used as a dredge disposal site by the Corps, including dredged material from the Corps' maintenance dredging activities and material from the project to deepen by three feet the river's navigation channel once that project is funded.
"Without this restoration, the productivity of habitat for fish and wildlife resources in this area will not attain its full potential," the Corps said.
The news release announcing the public process and how to comment on the BA can be found on the Corps' web site at: https://www.nwp.usace.army.mil/pa/. The BA is available on the web at: https://www.nwp.usace.army.mil/pm/e/crims_draft.htm.
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