Posted on Apr. 10th, 2020
Coastal Conservation Association (CCA) Oregon through our national habitat arm, Building Conservation Trust (BCT), has joined Tillamook Estuaries Partnership (TEP) and the North Coast Land Conservancy, to help fund and fully restore 73 acres of tidal wetlands within the Tillamook Bay Estuary. Once completed, this project will represent the third largest tidal wetland recovery effort of its kind in Tillamook Bay and CCA Oregon’s entry into habitat improvements in Oregon.
Tillamook Bay and its tidal wetlands comprise a critical habitat type for fish, migratory birds, and many other species of plant and wildlife. The project is located along the Pacific Flyway and will benefit 17 federal and/or state species of wildlife including federally threatened Oregon Coast Coho Salmon. The Tillamook River Wetlands (TRW) site is located at river mile three of the Tillamook River, one of five major tributaries to Tillamook Bay. This area represents one of the most important rearing areas for the eight salmonid species that reside within the estuary.
Historically, prior to draining and levee construction, the TRW site was known to be spruce tidal swamp, one of the rarest habitat types in the Pacific Northwest with a 92% decline. The site offers a unique opportunity to restore a matrix of tidal wetlands and multi-level species diversity in the context of a highly productive and complex estuary system. The project consists of the acquisition of 73 acres of property, scientific analysis of ecological opportunities and constraints, project design, and ultimately the restoration of 73 acres of tidal wetland habitat.
In order to accomplish our goals of reconnecting lost habitat, we will address five tide gate structures, eight culverts, and approximately 3000 feet of historic levee. We will then create and enhance the habitat within the property by creating a complex network of tidal channels, placing structural components such as large woody debris, planting a diversity of locally adapted native species, and removing competing exotic animals and plants that may exist. To date, the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board has awarded the partnership two grants to purchase the property, evaluate project feasibility, and begin design. A third grant to finalize the project design is pending with NOAA's Coastal Resiliency Fund Program. Additional funding may still be needed to complete the project design, and funds are yet to be raised for restoration implementation. Rough cost estimates for implementation range from $1-2 million; this will be refined as the project design moves forward.
For Oregon, this project represents a blend of many things that make our state a special place and are important to our livelihood -- diverse natural areas, farming & forestry, hunting & fishing, and our cultural identity. We are excited about this opportunity and are confident the project will succeed in enhancing our valued coastal wetland resources. We hope you feel the same. Thank you for your consideration of funding the Tillamook River Wetlands Project.
BCT and CCA Oregon are proud to be a part of the extremely important habitat effort and look forward to future habitat projects in Oregon.