This past April, the National Forest Foundation’s (NFF) Matching Awards Program awarded $33,000 to The Freshwater Trust for its Still Creek Watershed Restoration Project. The Freshwater Trust is the second largest restoration group in the Pacific Northwest with more than three decades of experience restoring rivers in the region.
The Still Creek Watershed Restoration Project seeks to accelerate the recovery of naturally functioning conditions within the stream channels and streamside vegetation of Oregon’s Still Creek. The Project hopes to restore production and improve long and short-term survival of juvenile and adult coho salmon, spring Chinook salmon, winter steelhead trout, cutthroat trout and lamprey.
"At first glance, Still Creek looks healthy and vibrant. But when you learn about its history, you begin to understand that this is not what the river should look like."
Still Creek is a tributary to the Zig Zag River located entirely within the Mt. Hood National Forest of northwest Oregon. The creek extends more than 13 miles from its headwaters on the flank of Mt. Hood to its confluence with the Zig Zag River. The creek was once a pristine place for spawning and rearing. Yet habitat has been degraded due to the building of roads, recreation, development, stream cleanouts, forest fires and historic timber harvest.
Funding from NFF is supporting the reactivation of flow to five historic side channels, construction of 26 large wood habitat structures, placement of additional large wood in side channels and streamside revegetation. The Freshwater Trust conducts comprehensive pre- and post-implementation monitoring efforts to ensure that the projects provide the desired habitat benefits in the long-term.
“All of the restoration work is designed to mimic what would naturally be there,” said Cosentino.
The Freshwater Trust, the U.S. Forest Service- Mt. Hood National Forest and the Bureau of Land Management are leading this project on behalf of the Sandy River Basin Partners – a unique coalition of public and private entities with a shared goal of restoring the basin’s native fish populations through collaborative, holistic and innovative approaches.
The cleaner, healthier water resulting from these restoration activities will benefit all aquatic inhabitants of the creek and enhance recreational opportunities on a renowned fishery. Side channel restoration will reduce flood risks and increase land value for downstream private landowners. Completed projects will also serve as a large-scale restoration project template for other area landowners.
“Restoration happens and everything changes,” said Cosentino. “You can see instantaneous and dramatic improvements. Fish immediately take advantage of their new and improved habitat.”