Several dikes holding Crowley Creek in a narrow stream channel near its confluence with the Salmon River will be taken out over the next two weeks, allowing the stream to spread out over five acres of tidal marsh, providing habitat for fish, waterfowl, elk and other creatures.
“When we’re done we will have a fully functional tidal marsh,” said Jason Kirchner, ODFW estuary and freshwater habitat biologist in Newport, who is working with the U.S. Forest Service and Salmon Drift Creek Watershed Council to restore the marsh to its natural drainage patterns and re-establish native vegetation.
The project area is located about eight miles north of Lincoln City, just a few hundred yards from the ocean. Tracked excavators will load earth from the dike onto trucks that will take it away to an upland area in Pixeland, about a quarter mile east of Lincoln City on Hwy. 18.
The dike, located next to Knight Park at Cascade Head, has been in place since the 1950s when it was constructed to create pasture by holding the stream in a narrow channel. Restoration of the Salmon River estuary began in 1996 with the removal of a dike after portions of the estuary were purchased by the Forest Service. In 2009, trailer park pads, roadways, tide gates and dams at Tamara Quays were removed. Last year, a former amusement park site was reclaimed by removing dikes, artificial waterways and RV facilities.
“This is a huge, multi-year estuary restoration initiative that will restore watershed processes, enhance the marsh’s ecological functions, and provide habitat for a diverse range of fish and wildlife species,” said Kirchner.
The excavated dike and other areas of soil disturbance will be planted with native trees, shrubs, and herbs, according to tidal, wetland, riparian, and upland zones. In addition to tree and shrub planting in the upland zone, an annual, sterile grass cover crop may be planted to provide initial competition with invasive weeds, according to Kirchner. A 44-foot-long culvert will be placed in the stream channel where it passes underneath Three Rocks Road to improve fish passage.
Heavy equipment used in the excavation will, at times, be using the adjacent Knight Park parking lot, which is next to a popular boat ramp. The impact to recreational users, anglers, and crabbers is expected to be limited to a couple days a week through the end of August, when the project is scheduled to be completed.
The project is being funded through a $127,000 grant from the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board and U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, with in-kind contributions from the other partners and Lincoln County.