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Bandon Marsh National Wildlife Refuge
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Ni-les'tun Tidal Marsh Restoration
Ni-les'tun Unit of Bandon Marsh National Wildlife Refuge
Viewing category: Ni-les'tun Tidal Marsh Restoration Project
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August 13, 2011
Last Week Before the Tides Return!
In a dramatic moment on Monday, Knife River equipment operators unearthed and pulled out the Fahys Creek culvert and tidegate at low tide, and filled the remaining hole to finally end the flow of Fahys Creek through the old artificial creek mouth. The flow of Fahys Creek then shifted to the new temporary tidegate installed last week and out across the mudflats in the historic location where the creek met the Coquille River. Interestingly, hundreds of shorebirds lingered this week feeding on the mudflats below the temporary tidegate as though they were impatiently anticipating their move into the new habitat areas we are creating.

Work this week was focused on setting the stage for the removal of the outer dike system and return of the tides next week. Work included finishing the fortification of the east and west protection dikes; narrowing and lowering the dikes over the tidegates of Redd and Noname creeks; fine-tuning the drainage in the marsh interior; and filling in the newly abandoned lower Fahys Creek channel. The excitement about the imminent return of the tides next week is tempered by our anxiety of making sure everything that needs to be completed before the final breach is actually accomplished. In tribute to the outstanding team of professionals working on this huge project, the constant communication among USFWS staff, Ducks Unlimited engineer, Knife River foreman and operators, and our science team has kept the process adaptable to any unexpected problems, while staying ahead of schedule. As currently planned, full tidal flow should be restored to the Ni-les’tun Unit by the end of next week!

Progress continues on the North Bank Lane improvements as well, as Tidewater Contractors increased their work hours this week. Roadwork included installing more underground utility conduit and vaults, removing surcharge from the North Bank Lane grade raise at Redd Creek and placing the fill on the road west of Fahys Creek. Work on widening the roadbed in several areas also occurred.
Posted by the Oregon Coast National Wildlife Refuge Complex Staff at 7:30 PM
August 5, 2011
First Stage of Outer Dike Removal Underway
Dike removal was the order of the week and is greatly changing the view of the landscape along the Coquille River. Contractor Knife River kept busy with two backhoes removing the outer dike and up to five 6-wheel dump trucks moving the spoils to fortify the east and west levees, which will protect our neighbors from tidal flooding. By the end of the week, only the southwest section of the outer dike remained to be lowered to the staging elevation. There is a much different feel to the area now with most of the dike removed. The high tide is only a couple feet away from spilling over top into the former pastures. On Friday, we took advantage of the low tide in late morning to install a temporary tidegate in the west dike. This allows us to shift the location of the Fahys Creek outlet, while Knife River begins to decommission and remove the old tidegate and back fill the existing lower artificial channel. Once the stream begins to flow through this new tidegate, it will mark the first time in over hundred years that Fahys Creek will return to the historical mouth location. Assuming we can continue at the current rate of progress, we anticipate the final tidegate and dike removal to occur ahead of schedule, during the week of August 15th. On August 3rd officials from NOAA-Fisheries toured the project site, followed the next day by the Natural Resource Trustees of the M/V New Carissa oil spill.

Tidewater Contractors spent the week burying more utility conduit and installing vaults along North Bank Lane. They are also making some progress on constructing the new Refuge office driveway.
Posted by the Oregon Coast National Wildlife Refuge Complex Staff at 5:40 PM
August 1, 2011
The Outer Dike Begins to Come Down
For those of us familiar with the view over the Ni-les'tun Unit of Bandon Marsh NWR from the U.S. Highway 101 bridge, this week has brought welcome and dramatic changes. The removal of the overhead powerlines and poles that traversed the pastures and river, along with the clearing of trees and brush off the west dike near Fahys Creek, allows a sweeping panorama across the former pastures and up the river valley.

Restoration contractor Knife River spent the week placing more than 100 pieces of large woody debris in six reaches of tidal channel to create fish habitat. They also distributed almost as many sections of decaying logs that are intended to become nurse logs supporting seedling establishment for woody plants, which will extend the existing tidal spruce forest into the marsh. Some of these nurse logs were donated to the refuge by the Coquille Indian Tribe, and others were purchased at cost from Moore Mill Timber company in Bandon. At the same time, other Knife River equipment operators were stripping vegetation off the west dike and the outer dike in preparation for removal. By Friday, the first lowering of the outer dike along the river bank near No Name Creek began. With an eye on the predicted high tides over the next few weeks, the dikes will be narrowed and lowered in stages (lifts), with final lift and tidegate removal scheduled for the lowest high tides of the year during the third week of August. This staging is critical so we can remove the final lift and get all heavy machinery to high ground before the higher tides return. All dike excavation is being constantly monitored by archaeologists look for and protect any cultural resource artifacts/sites that may be uncovered.

Meanwhile Tidewater Contractors is moving forward on North Bank Lane road improvements. By the end of the week all the surcharge on the road grade raise in the Fahys Creek section had been removed and used to elevate the road to the west. Tidewater also began excavating the new driveway for the Refuge office, and buried more conduit for underground utility lines.

This week's activities were observed with great interest by two visiting scholars from China that are here to learn about how we do large-scale habitat restoration. Yingshou Xu and Yifei Jia are from the Beijing Forestry University where they study wetland ecology. In their first week here, they have been involved in doing bird and herptile surveys, invasive plant removal, archaeological research, and mudflat invertebrate sampling. They have been very impressed by the amount of money, equipment, and professional expertise we are bringing to bear on this project. We have been impressed by their enthusiasm, curiosity, broad interests, and stories about how things are done in China. They will be here all through August, and will clearly have many stories (and photos) to share with their Chinese colleagues when they return to China on September 3rd.
Posted by the Oregon Coast National Wildlife Refuge Complex Staff at 3:34 PM
July 22, 2011
Final Stages of Restoration
The excitement is now building as Knife River has begun to mobilize earthmoving equipment this week to the restoration site in preparation for the start of construction on Monday. This week, Stan Van de Wetering, Siletz Tribe fish biologist and monitoring team member, staked out the locations for the placement of over 50 additional logs with root wads that will be installed in the new tidal channels to improve fish habitat. Placement of the logs will be the first component that Knife River will accomplish. These logs will add to the 100 large logs installed last year, and are a bonus as a result of the restoration project completion being postponed until this year.

Meanwhile, Tidewater Contractors have been working on the final phase of North Bank Lane road improvements. They buried conduit and vaults along portions of the road in preparation for the ultimate burial of power and telephone lines, which will reduce bird strike hazards and improve the aesthetics of the Refuge. They have also begun removing the surcharge added to the raised portions of the road last year to get down to the final road grade. The removed material is being used to fill places where the road will be widened.

Work began today on the final stage of the large powerline burial project that crosses the Coquille River through the project site. This weekend, Doyon and its subcontractors will finally remove the overhead lines that cross the former pastures and Coquille River, along with the poles that support them. The underground lines installed last year replaced the aerial lines' function since last October, though the decision was made to leave the poles up through the winter until the new conductors were well tested. Coos-Curry Electric Cooperative, the owner of the transmission lines, is satisfied that the underground lines are fully functional, and gave final approval for the removal of the old lines earlier this week. We will all breathe a sigh of relief when this portion of the project is completed in the next few days.

An unseasonable substantial rainfall last weekend caused a welcome interruption in the watering of the plantings at our riparian restoration site. In order to help the trees and shrubs through their first dry season we installed a temporary irrigation system. A gas-powered pump takes water from Fahys Creek and sends it through 500 feet of hose to two portable sprinkler heads that we move around to cover the drier parts of the site. Some of our long-term volunteers have been helping keep the watering going. We have also had other volunteers help us pull scotch broom and other weeds that are appearing in the restoration site, which will be an ongoing process for the next couple years, at least, until the native plants get well established.
Posted by the Oregon Coast National Wildlife Refuge Complex Staff at 5:13 PM

Chinese Biologists Assist Tidal Marsh Restoration Project
This weekend two Chinese biologists will join American colleagues for six weeks at Bandon Marsh National Wildlife Refuge in Bandon, Oregon. The foreign visitors will assist the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service with a 418-acre tidal marsh restoration project that provides important habitat for a variety of estuarine-dependent fish, birds, and other wildlife. The visiting scientists will live on-site at the refuge with others working on the project.

"We're very proud of our efforts involving many partners and want to share our experience with the Chinese visitors," said Roy W. Lowe, Project Leader at the Oregon Coast National Wildlife Refuge Complex. China's coastal wetland habitat is diminishing, and that impacts bird species that breed in Alaska and migrate to China, so it is in our interest to encourage China to take positive steps for preserving coastal wetlands."

Lowe added, "Mr. Yingshou Xu and Mr. Yifei Jia are both trained professionals from the prestigious Beijing Forestry University, and the refuge will benefit by having their perspective on this project." A Chinese student who recently completed an MA in International Environmental Policy Studies in California, Ms. Miao Yu, will travel to Oregon to assist with language translation.

The visit is occurring under the auspices of the Nature Conservation Protocol, an agreement signed in 1986 between the U.S. Department of the Interior and China's State Forestry Administration. The Protocol, which marked its 25th anniversary this year, encourages information exchange and cooperation in wildlife conservation. Cooperation is based on reciprocity, and several U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service groups are hosted by Chinese counterparts annually.

The Service's Wildlife Without Borders China program coordinates activities and exchanges related to the Protocol, and is managed by the Arlington, Virginia based Division of International Conservation. Division Chief Herb Raffaele notes the importance of international cooperation for wildlife conservation. "If we do not take advantage of learning from one another, then each country will have to reinvent the wheel and learn from its own trials and errors," said Raffaele. "It can be costly, not only financially, but ecologically as well."

To learn more about the U.S.-China Nature Conservation Protocol and read the 2011-2013 work plan, visit the Wildlife Without Borders China program webpage, http://www.fws.gov/international/DIC/regionalprograms/china/china.html.

Follow the Service's International Affairs program on Twitter @USFWSInternatl, and on Facebook, USFWSInternationalAffairs.

For additional information on the tidal marsh restoration project at Bandon Marsh go to http://www.fws.gov/oregoncoast/bandonmarsh/restoration/index.cfm.
Posted by the Oregon Coast National Wildlife Refuge Complex Staff at 2:58 PM
June 14, 2011
Beaver Week
It is still more than a month before Knife River will be onsite to begin the final construction of the restoration, but preparatory work and monitoring activities are keeping our staff busy. Tidewater Construction surveyors have been working along North Bank Lane to stake out areas where the road will be widened, and determine how much, if any, settling has occurred along the sections of road that were raised last year. The amount of settling will dictate how much of the road surcharge (added to test the support of the road base on wetland soils) will be removed this year to bring the road surface to final grade. The surveying will also help in the design of the relocation of the driveway to the Refuge office. Also part of the road project, last week a crew from the Coquille Watershed Association cut down extensive stands of scotch broom (an exotic invasive shrub) along North Bank Lane as the first step in controlling weed establishment in soils disturbed by road widening. Cutting the scotch broom will not kill the plants, but will make them more vulnerable to herbicide treatment by Coos County later this summer.

The former pastures have dried out considerably as the winter rains tapered off and plant respiration reaches its peak. It is important that the ground dries enough to support the heavy equipment that will be working out there this summer. However, over the winter beavers have built a beautiful dam on one of the tributaries of Redd Creek that resulted in standing water around two of the abandoned powerline poles that have yet to be removed. While the activity beavers has provided great habitat, we needed to lower the water, so we installed a "beaver baffle" in the dam has lower the water in a way that the beavers cannot prevent. The baffle consists of a pipe that is placed in the dam at the level we want the water to be, with the upstream portion perforated and screened to allow water flow that cannot be easily plugged by the beavers. The baffle was installed several weeks ago, and the beavers have since repaired the dam, but have not been able to raise the water level more than a few inches above the pipe. This has drained much of the water away from the powerline poles, and we hope that reduced input into the drainage as the season progresses will lower the water enough to allow easy removal of the poles. If it doesn't, we will modify the baffle to allow more flow-through. Beavers have also built some small dams in a branch of Fahys Creek on the north side of North Bank Lane, and we are hopeful that they will continue their activities in that stream.

Collection of baseline ecological data continued this week, including samples for measurement of water quality, fish seining in the Coquille mainstem by ODFW, plant inventory work by our volunteer botanists Dave and Diane Bilderback, amphibian surveys, and our regular bird surveys (now conducted weekly).

With the volunteer help of eight members of the local "Hot Sticks" fishing club, over 350 more trees and shrubs planted at the Smith Tract restoration site one Saturday morning in May. This week we began a mortality survey of those plus the more than 12,000 planted in March to assess survival. It looks like we are going to need to irrigate some sections of the site where the soils are especially well-drained to help the plants get through the dry season.
Posted by the Oregon Coast National Wildlife Refuge Complex Staff at 3:19 PM
May 26, 2011
The Final Phase of Restoration Begins!
The third and final year of construction for the Ni-les'tun Tidal Marsh Restoration Project has begun. On May 10th, Refuge staff, engineers with the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), and the Coos County Road Department met on site with Pacific Power and Frontier Communications to discuss the undergrounding of the North Bank Lane power lines and phone/cable along the Fahys Creek and Redd Creek grade raise areas. This is a new project component that is being implemented along bird flight corridors to prevent injury and mortality due to wire strikes. During the meeting partners reviewed the 2011 construction activities and schedule for completing the small culvert upgrades, and repaving of North Bank Lane. Engineers with FHWA and their contractor BANC3 reviewed a new entrance road design for the refuge office since the existing entrance will be impacted by road widening of North Bank Lane. Surveyors for Tidewater Contractors arrived on May 4th; their construction crews are scheduled to arrive after the survey is completed. Roadwork will continue throughout the spring and summer.

Ducks Unlimited and their contractor Knife River Corporation will return to the refuge in July for the final phase of construction associated with the marsh restoration. This final phase will include the placement of the large woody debris in tidal channels and creeks, relocating the mouth of Fahys Creek back to its historic location, erection of small dikes on the east and west end of the project site to protect private lands, and removal of the artificial perimeter dike and tidegates. By late-August the tidal function of the marsh will be restored!
Posted by the Oregon Coast National Wildlife Refuge Complex Staff at 10:13 AM
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