Columbia Land Trust and the Bonneville Power Administration on Wednesday announced the purchase of 560 acres near the mouth of the Columbia River to permanently protect riverside habitat for Northwest fish and wildlife, including threatened and endangered salmon and steelhead.
The acquisitions are intended to benefit young salmon and steelhead from Oregon, Washington and Idaho that that rear and gain essential strength in the estuary during their migration to the Pacific Ocean.
The three newly protected properties include:
-- 117 acres at the mouth of the Wallicut River just outside of Ilwaco, Wash., where Capt. William Lewis and his crew reportedly camped on the property shortly before the Lewis and Clark expedition of the early 1800s voted to spend their winter at Fort Clatsop, Ore.
-- 378 acres at Knappton Cove on the north side of the Columbia River roughly opposite Astoria, Ore.
-- 65 acres of tidelands, floodplain and uplands at the mouth of the Deep River where it empties into Grays Bay on the Washington side of the Columbia River.
“These projects benefit every salmon and steelhead run in the entire Columbia River watershed, and are part of Columbia Land Trust’s concerted habitat restoration effort that has already conserved a tapestry of critical habitat now encompassing more than 5,300 acres,” according to Glenn Lamb, executive director of Columbia Land Trust.
Potential restoration will also support the local economy and jobs. The restored habitat will benefit coho, chinook and chum salmon; steelhead; and cutthroat trout, as well as terrestrial wildlife such as black bear, elk and river otter.
The Columbia Land Trust purchased the properties with funding from the Bonneville and its electric ratepayers. Additional funds were provided by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Washington Recreation and Conservation Office: Salmon Recovery Funding Board. The final purchase, Knappton Cove, closed last week. BPA will receive a conservation easement for each property to ensure that their habitat will be protected in perpetuity.
"We have stepped up our efforts to protect and restore estuary habitat as science has demonstrated how important the estuary is to juvenile fish," said Lorri Bodi, BPA's vice president of Environment, Fish and Wildlife. "Good estuary habitat is like a head start program for salmon about to head out to the ocean."
In just the first three months of 2012, Columbia Land Trust completed five conservation projects totaling 1,623 acres of prime habitat, benefiting wildlife and future generations. Among the latest, the 378-acre Knappton Cove property is located on the Columbia River south of Naselle in Pacific County, Wash
Knappton Cove consists of upland forest, including significant riparian areas along six streams and the Columbia River, emergent wetlands along the Columbia, and submerged tidelands. It has three-quarters of a mile of Columbia River frontage. All Columbia River salmon and steelhead, including all 13 Endangered Species Act-listed threatened stocks, use this portion of the Columbia at least twice in their life cycles – on their way to the ocean and upon their return to spawn.
The property also provides important habitat for black bear, Roosevelt elk, and river otter. The property is adjacent to 130 acres of Columbia River shoreline conserved by Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, adding to habitat connectivity.
“This project benefits every salmon and steelhead run in the entire Columbia River watershed, and is part of Columbia Land Trust’s concerted habitat restoration effort that has already conserved a tapestry of critical habitat now encompassing more than 5,300 acres,” Lamb said.
Bonneville markets power generated at federal mainstem Columbia and Snake river dams and funds such projects as mitigation for impacts of hydro projects on fish and wildlife.
The Land Trust plans on completing some restoration activities on the property, which will allow it to be self-sustaining, and conserve it in perpetuity. Restoration activities may include forest thinning, weed control and road removal. A management plan will be developed with public input in 2012 to guide restoration and stewardship.
Bonneville in large part also funded the Deep River ($105,000) and Wallicut River ($572,000) properties.
The land acquisitions would satisfy some of BPA’s mitigation requirements for the Columbia River estuary as identified in the National Marine Fisheries Service 2008 biological opinion that guides the protection of ESA-listed salmon and steelhead.