Have you ever wondered what makes a rainbow trout become a “steelhead?” Have you ever caught a glimpse of steelhead swimming and spawning in the wild? These incredible ocean-going trout are among the most revered gamefish in the world, and they attract thousands of anglers to Tillamook County’s rivers every year. Steelhead are also one of the most beautiful and interesting inhabitants of our rainforest environment. This coming weekend offers a rare chance to learn about these fascinating fish on a special “steelhead ecology” hike along Tillamook’s spectacular Kilchis River. Join naturalists from the Tillamook Bay Watershed Council (TBWC) and Tillamook Estuaries Partnership (TEP) as they lead hikers along sections of the Kilchis, looking for spawning pairs of steelhead, and discussing aspects of steelhead biology and behavior. Registration is FREE and required for this event.
When, Where & What to Bring: This coming Saturday, April 8th from 10:00AM to 1:00PM at the Mapes Creek Landing (aka the “Logger Bridge”) on the Kilchis River. Bring boots, raingear and a snack, as well as a pair of polarized sunglasses if you have them.
Difficulty: Moderate; approximately 2 miles round-trip. Trail is typically muddy and will include navigating uneven terrain and hopping across two small streams.
Cost: The event is FREE, although there will be a $4 parking fee per vehicle, payable by cash or check to the Tillamook County Parks Department.
Registration: Required and available at EventBrite.com by following the link below:
Explore Nature is a series of hikes, walks, paddles and outdoor adventures hosted throughout Tillamook County by a coalition of conservation organizations. These meaningful, nature-based experiences highlight the unique beauty of Tillamook County and the work being done to preserve and conserve the area’s natural resources and natural resource-based economy. Explore Nature is partially funded by the Economic Development Council of Tillamook County and Visit Tillamook Coast.
The TBWC and TEP are local, not-for-profit organizations working to build voluntary partnerships with communities and landowners to protect, maintain and improve the health of our waters, fish and wildlife. Learn more about our on-the-ground restoration projects, educational outreach programs, and other community-engagement activities on our “Projects” page, and at www.tbnep.org.
Tillamook has been an epicenter of salmon habitat restoration efforts over the last two years. In fact, we are currently hosting the largest wetland-restoration project in Oregon’s history. Tillamook County’s Southern Flow Corridor Landowner Preferred Alternativeproject–usually referred to as “Southern Flow” for the sake of brevity–is reconnecting 520 acres of tidal wetlands in the Wilson-Trask Delta. The summer of 2015 saw The Nature Conservancy’s reconnection of Stasek Slough to the Kilchis River, and the excavation of miles of tidal channels, nearly doubling the available wetland habitat in the Kilchis Delta. And going back a few years earlier, the Miami Wetlands project restored tidal wetlands at the mouth of the Miami River. Collectively, these projects add up to over 650 acres of restored habitat for juvenile salmon, and they represent a major pendulum swing in local land use, from dairy farming to the natural production of salmon.
In the Tillamook, roughly 85% of tidal wetlands were reclaimed as farmland from the late 1800s through the 1970s. That meant the clearing of Sitka spruce forests and swamps and the diking of large areas to prevent tidal influence and saltwater intrusion. With the dikes came tidegates which were designed to allow water to flow off the land, but to prevent water from flowing in. This massive loss of juvenile rearing habitat is now recognized as one of the primary limiting factors for Tillamook’s coho and Chinook salmon populations, which today are roughly 10% to 30% of their historic abundance, depending on the species.
With so many major restoration projects rolling out in the Tillamook, the big question is How will the fish respond? For the answer to that question, we’ll have to be patient, but we do have a very good case study just two watersheds to the south which points to a hopeful outcome. The Salmon River estuary, just north of Lincoln City, was the scene of intensive restoration of wetlands from 1978 to 2011, resulting in over 400 acres of reconnected salmon habitat. NOAA scientist Daniel Bottom, along with a team of fisheries scientists, studied the response of coho and Chinook salmon populations during the same period. They also looked at how the wetlands performed as rearing habitat for young salmon and how the fish used the habitat. Bottom and his team found that the diversity of coho and Chinook life-history strategies expanded dramatically with the increased rearing opportunity. And they estimated an increase of 20% to 40% of returning adult salmon as a result of the restored habitats. It was the first local study to quantify the benefits of wetland restoration to salmon, and to clearly demonstrate the connection between wetlands habitats and life-history diversity. In the years since the Salmon River studies, Bottom and others have gone on to suggest that life-history diversity among salmon is likely the key to survival in a changing world. And since wetland restoration has been shown to restore that diversity, it follows that wetland restoration is critical to the adaptation and survival of salmon populations as climate changes and sea levels rise.
Join the Tillamook Bay Watershed Council the evening of October 25th for a special presentation by Daniel Bottom. He will share experiences and revelations from his time on the Salmon River, and he will discuss the potential gains from our local restoration efforts. Don’t miss this rare chance to learn some of the latest findings in fisheries science from one of our area’s leading researchers. The presentation will be held in the Hatfield Room at the Tillamook County Library from 6:30PM to 7:30PM. We hope to see you there!
If you missed Dan’s presentation you can still see his slide deck here, and it’s a big deal: Salmon River Study
Every August the Tillamook Bay Watershed Council holds an outdoor potluck and picnic that is open to the public. It’s a special opportunity to share good company and good food in a beautiful location, preferably near one of our restoration project sites. This year the event falls on Tuesday, August 30th and will be held at Anderson Hill Park from 6:30PM to 8:30PM. The park is adjacent to Mill Creek, where the TBWC’s summer project is underway. So bring your hiking boots and be ready for an after-dinner expedition. We’ll tour a number of large-wood structures and discuss the “whys” and “hows” behind their design and placement. For those who aren’t familiar, the entrance to Anderson Hill Park is directly behind the Officer’s Mess Hall, 6825 Officers Row (just east of the Air Museum). We will not hold a business meeting that evening.
Here’s an updated Coordinator’s Report to get everyone up to speed on our active projects:
Council Coordinator’s Report, August 17th, 2016
Mill Creek Habitat Enhancement – TCSWCD has installed the main posts for the new fence line and strung a single high-tensile electric wire at 42” height. So far Mr. Obrist’s cows have not crossed the line, but I will be surveying the area every day to make sure the fence remains secure. The OYA work crew has removed most of the old fence and will finish this week. Steve Trask has surveyed our Mill Creek reach and has provided specifications for each of our large wood structure sites. The number of sites has been reduced from 22 to 17 after consultations from Trask and ODFW habitat biologist Troy Laws. Custom Excavating will begin pushing over Sitka spruce trees on the south side of Anderson Hill Park Thursday, August 18th. They will harvest 44 trees, cut them to specified lengths, and haul them to staging areas adjacent to Mill Creek. In-stream construction of large wood structures is scheduled begin August 25th and continue through September 9th. Our Council potluck at Anderson Hill Park on August 30th will provide a rare opportunity for people to tour a working restoration project.
OK Ranch, Miami River – Final designs have been provided by Meghan Walter, NRCS engineer. We plan to submit an application to DSL and the Army Corps this week, followed by a County Development Permit. So far no contractors have been able to confirm availability for working on the project, and we still need to secure roughly $30K in match funding to move this project forward.
Skookum Dam Removal – We kicked off the project in July with a meeting in Salem. Our two engineering contractors met face to face and came to a consensus on roles, responsibilities and next steps. Our goal is to have final designs and a bid package ready to go in October of this year to ensure we get the best contractor possible for construction. Total cost of project $514,298; OWEB funds requested: $264,198. Construction scheduled for summer 2017.
Coast Range Road (South Fork Trask) – Jon Wehage offered up 400 more seedlings on behalf of Stimson Lumber for the replanting plan during our OWEB Review Team site visit on June 2nd. The unofficial word is that the project will be recommended for funding, and Stimson’s commitment to the project was apparently a key factor in that decision. Thank you, Jon & Stimson! Total cost of project: $129,465; OWEB funds requested: $91,365. Construction scheduled for summer 2017.
Mill Creek Culverts – No word from the Carlsons on their crossing, or whether they plan to have Euchre Mountain do any in-stream work this summer. Next step for the remaining passage barriers is to apply for a TA grant to get design dollars.
Headquarters Camp Creek, Trask River –Three culvert replacements and a series of large wood structures are planned for the lowest mile of the creek, above its confluence with Stretch Creek. ODF is working on design for the main culvert now for a 2017 or 2018 installation. The Council plans to submit an OWEB Restoration Grant application for October 2016 in the amount of $60,000 to $80,000.
Holden Creek Tidegates – Troy Downing has reached out to the Tillamook River Drainage District on behalf of new operators in the flood areas between HWY101 and McCormick Loop. Awaiting a call from Darrell Fletcher to set a meeting date when our partnership can make the case for a solution.
Upcoming events – Here’s a list of our remaining meetings and events for 2016 so everyone can get them on the calendar:
August 30th – Potluck & Picnic, Anderson Hill Park (behind the Officer’s Mess Hall at the Port)
September 27th – The Oregon Wetlands Bill with Chad Allen and Hilary Foote, Tillamook Co. Library
October 25th – Pathways to Resilience by Daniel Bottom, Tillamook County Library
November 29th – Speaker TBD, Tillamook County Library
December 27th – Annual Holiday Party, Bay City Arts Center
All of the above Council events will be held from 6:30PM to 8:00PM on their respective dates.
For more information contact: Robert Russell, Council Coordinator, 503-322-0002
Derek Wiley is one of the “fishiest” guys in Tillamook. Not only is he an avid angler, he is also a research biologist at our local ODFW office. He supervises two field crews responsible for monitoring abundance of adult and juvenile salmonids in the NF Nehalem and EF Trask Rivers for the state’s Salmonid Life Cycle Monitoring (LCM) project. That means he has his finger on the pulse of our local fish populations, literally.
The Tillamook Bay Watershed Council (TBWC) has been fortunate to join Derek and his crew for some eye-opening days at their fish traps. These folks work extremely hard to collect population data critical to our understanding and protection of our fisheries. They are the unsung heroes on the front lines of fisheries conservation. Thankfully, Derek dedicated himself to recording key moments from the 2015/16 field season, which he has edited into two documentary films that will inspire anyone with a passion for fish.
Join us May 31st at the Tillamook County Library (6:30PM) for a special screening of Derek’s films. Journey’s Endis an 18-minute video capturing underwater behavior and spawning of wild chum salmon, Chinook salmon, coho salmon, and Pacific lamprey in several rivers and creeks on the northern Oregon Coast. Salmonid Life Cycle Monitoring on the NF Nehalem Riveris a documentary about ODFW’s Life Cycle Monitoring activities on the North Fork Nehalem River with a focus on the 2015 fall salmon trapping season. Footage for both was primarily captured with a GoPro camera and editing was done with iMovie11. The two films showcase the journey of anadromous fish species during spawning season and offer a behind the scenes look at ODFW’s Salmonid Life Cycle Monitoring Program.