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Bandon Marsh National Wildlife Refuge
Pacific Region
Ni-les'tun Tidal Marsh Restoration
Ni-les'tun Unit of Bandon Marsh National Wildlife Refuge
December 8, 2011
Restoration Update - December 2011
Since restoration construction activity stopped last September, we have been watching wildlife respond to the return of the tides to Ni-les'tun, and it has been very exciting. Probably the most obvious response has been by waterfowl; geese have been grazing on the fresh grass growing on the disturbed areas, and mallard, northern pintail, American wigeon, American coot, and most spectacularly a flock of up to 500 green-winged teal are taking advantage of the channels and pools filled by the tides. The teal fly around in tight flocks wheeling like shorebirds when they are flushed by northern harriers or peregrine falcons. Speaking of shorebirds, there has also been persistent flocks of sandpipers, plovers, dowitchers, and scattered Wilson's snipe; particularly down on the incipient mudflats developing at lower Fahys Creek. There is now also a greater presence of great blue herons and great egrets than before the restoration and they can be seen foraging throughout the marsh, indicating that there is plenty of food for them.

With the restoration of fish passage along the entire length of Fahys Creek, we are anxious to see if any stray salmon will discover the new gravel spawning beds available to them. Biologists with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife installed an adult salmon fish trap in Fahys Creek just below North Bank Lane in late October for the purpose of monitoring salmon migration up the creek. The habitat is most suitable for Coho salmon, but the only fish we have captured to date is a single hatchery Chinook. Any Coho captured will be marked and released above the trap, where they will have to negotiate a few beaver dams to reach the gravel beds. The peak of Coho migration is still to come, though, and we still hold out hope that some fish will move into the new habitat. We are also conducting weekly redd and carcass surveys along the creek to document actual spawning.

In late November we supplemented the woody plantings at Smith Tract with another 2,000 trees and shrubs. These new plants replace some of the previously planted (last March) trees that died, and add species, such as evergreen huckleberry, cascara, and rhododendron, that we were not able to get from nurseries last winter. We contracted with Professional Reforestation of Oregon, Inc. of Coos Bay to do the planting and their crew also removed thousands of invasive scotch broom, gorse, and blackberry sprouts from the site. The planting crew also weeded and planted to repair disturbance associated with the Fahys Creek fish passage projects upstream of the Refuge.

This week we have a team from USFWS Columbia River Fisheries Program Office down to sample fish in the new marsh for the first time since the tides have returned. They use fife nets and seines to capture fish at various locations throughout the refuge. So far, they have found lots of coastal cutthroat trout and juvenile Coho in the non-tidal waters of Fahys Creek. The intrusion of brackish water into the marsh has brought with it typically estuarine species found for the first time including larval smelt, crabs, and jellyfish, along with plenty of stickleback, sculpin, and juvenile Coho that were all present before restoration.

The November King tides were spectacular to see as the tidal water flowed all the way to North Bank Lane, the DeFazio Marsh Overlook Deck and nearly submerged the new marsh spur trail.
Posted by the Oregon Coast National Wildlife Refuge Complex Staff at 5:29 PM in Category: Ni-les'tun Tidal Marsh Restoration Project
October 11, 2011
The Last Regular Blog Post
The last week of September saw Tidewater Contractors scurry around trying to complete all major construction associated with the North Bank Lane road improvements prior to the October 1st dedication. Thursday September 29th dawned sunny and warm with the temp climbing above 70°F during the afternoon. This was a perfect day for the contractor to paint the stripes on the 3.5 miles of improved roadway. Bark mulch containing seed was blown onto exposed road banks and cuts throughout the project area on the 29th and 30th. On September 30th Tidewater and its sub-contractor rushed to complete the walkways and stairs associated with the pedestrian underpass at the refuge office and clean up all material along North Bank Lane. Concrete was poured in the morning hours on both sides of the underpass and near the refuge office as time ran out for completing work prior to the dedication the following day. By late the next morning, October 1st, the concrete had cured enough to allow foot traffic to use the walkways.

The high tides during the last week of September flooded the lower marsh areas and pushed tidal flows up the channels all the way to the marsh view trail near the overlook. A passing storm front on Friday September 30th brought with it thousands of white-fronted geese and lesser numbers of migrating cackling Canada geese. Geese were still passing overhead after dusk. The following morning found both white-fronted geese and cackling Canada geese resting on the new marsh. Approximately 200 snow geese circled the new marsh but did not land, and at least one sandhill crane, a rare bird for the Oregon coast, was heard passing over the marsh high up in the clouds. These sights and sounds proved to be a grand start to the dedication day.

The official dedication started off with a private luncheon hosted by Ducks Unlimited at the Bandon Community Center. Approximately 170 invitees and guests attended the luncheon, including partners, friends, families, employees and dignitaries. Tom Dwyer, Director of Conservation for Ducks Unlimited in the Pacific Northwest, Rowan Gould, Deputy Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and Roy Lowe, Project Leader of the Oregon Coast National Wildlife Refuge spoke at the luncheon. A four-minute teaser video of the restoration project produced by Narrative Labs was shown at the luncheon. A full version of the video will be produced at a later date. You can view the video teaser at

The public dedication ceremony took place on the Refuge at the Ni-les'tun Marsh Overlook area. Parking was not available on site so attendees parked at the Beach Parking Lot in Bullards Beach State Park and were shuttled from there to the Refuge. We were extremely fortunate as the rain quit about 45 minutes before the ceremony started and did not return until well after the event ended. The ceremony included an invocation by Don Ivy, Cultural Resources Program Coordinator for the Coquille Indian Tribe, and a traditional youth feather dance was performed in full regalia by the Coquille Indian Tribe to welcome the return of the tides to this traditional hunting and fishing ground. Other speakers at the event included Roy Lowe; Tom Dwyer; Rowan Gould; Ed Shepard, BLM State Director for OR & WA; Clara Conner, Division Engineer for the Federal Highway Administration; Ken Bierly, Deputy Director of OWEB; Robyn Thorson, Regional Director of the USFWS; Pacific Region; Tom Younker, Tribal Council and Elder, Coquille Indian Tribe; and U.S. Representative Peter DeFazio. During the ceremony the Refuge surprised Congressman DeFazio by announcing the dedication of the Ni-les'tun viewing deck in his honor for all of the support he has given to Bandon Marsh and Oregon Islands National Wildlife Refuges over the past 20 years. The viewing deck is now officially known as the Representative Peter DeFazio Marsh Overlook and a bronze plaque will be installed there soon. It was a nice way to finish off a grand day.

This constitutes the last regular blog post for the restoration project. Please check back from time to time as we will provide updates when something significant happens or is seen. You can also follow us on Facebook (
Posted by the Oregon Coast National Wildlife Refuge Complex Staff at 2:17 PM in Category: Ni-les'tun Tidal Marsh Restoration Project
September 26, 2011
The Penultimate Blog Post
Since our last post Tidewater Contractors have settled most of the dust, but are still making a lot of noise. They have gotten the gravel road base spread and compacted, and begun laying down asphalt. The gravel covered the dusty road, but the graders and vibrating rollers have been rattling the Refuge office windows for several days. That is OK, though, because it is welcome progress. Road paving is ongoing, and is scheduled to continue all weekend. Meanwhile Pacific Power has taken down the utility wires and poles along North Bank Lane that have been replaced with underground lines, and the concrete subcontractor has poured the retaining walls for the pedestrian tunnel. Also, the old office driveway has been transformed into a narrower walking path that will eventually connect to the tunnel.

Tidewater is pushing hard to complete the roadwork before our dedication celebration on October 1. Preparations for our dedication ceremony are coming to a head, and we expect over 200 people to be here as our partners, friends, agency officials, and the public celebrate this important restoration. The ceremony will include an invocation and traditional youth dance performance in full regalia by the Coquille Indian Tribe to welcome the return of the tides to this traditional hunting and fishing ground. The public is invited to attend the event, which begins at 3:00pm. On site parking will not be available so please go to Bullard's Beach State Park then follow Bandon Marsh Event signs to the Beach Parking Lot located 1.3 miles from the park entrance. From the Beach Parking lot you can catch the free shuttle to the event at our North Bank Lane overlook parking lot.
Posted by the Oregon Coast National Wildlife Refuge Complex Staff at 8:34 AM in Category: Ni-les'tun Tidal Marsh Restoration Project
September 12, 2011
Upper Fahys Creek Project Completed
By the end of last week the fish passage restoration project on private land along Fahys Creek west of the refuge was completed well ahead of the September 15 deadline for instream work. Aside from some revegetation of areas impacted by heavy equipment, we have only to wait for winter rains and high stream flows to see if the coho salmon will find this breeding habitat that has not been available to them for over 100 years. There is some debate among salmon biologists on the likelihood of wild coho recolonizing this watershed on their own in the next couple of years, and whether they will need a bit of help in the form of stocking fry in Fahys Lake. Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife has agreed to wait a few years to see what happens before intervening. Meanwhile, the coastal cutthroat trout already present will undoubtedly expand upstream and use the new spawning grounds. In any case, we are all excited to have the opportunity to compliment the marsh restoration of the tidal section of Fahys Creek, which will greatly benefit juvenile salmon, with the restoration of upper Fahys Creek salmon breeding and rearing habitat, leading to restored function of this entire coastal stream.?? Progress on North Bank Lane road improvements includes completion of buried utility conduits with pull strings in place, the last of the drainage culvert installations, milling of most of the old asphalt road surface, and spreading of much of the gravel road base in preparation for new pavement. The latest projection is that the road work will be completed around September 20. We are all looking forward to the final removal of all the heavy equipment, noise, dust, and traffic delays, and the return of natural processes dominating the refuge. ?
Posted by the Oregon Coast National Wildlife Refuge Complex Staff at 8:22 PM in Category: Ni-les'tun Tidal Marsh Restoration Project
September 5, 2011
Out of the Marsh and Up the Creek
This week the last of the heavy equipment left the marsh after Knife River completed the final grading and farm road obliteration near North Bank Lane. The final touch was a coating of hydroseed over the bare soil near the road. The week was characterized by higher and higher tides that extended the flooding further into the marsh. Some of the wildlife responses we have noticed include a flock of up to 100 western gulls hanging around the mouth of Fahys Creek taking advantage of the food bonanza of benthic invertebrates being exposed by the fast current during falling tides; mallards and green-winged teal foraging and loafing in the shallow waters of the marsh; great blue herons and great egrets patrolling the tidal channels; smelt cruising in east Fahys branch; and raptors hunting small mammals displaced by the inundation. We can no longer use pick-up trucks, or even ATVs to travel around the site, as we have for the last couple years, due to the wet soils, so fieldwork involves long walks through dense vegetation, and crossing channels too deep for chest waders on strategically placed logs.

Restoration activities have shifted off refuge upstream along Fahys Creek where we are removing two fish barriers to allow full access for salmon to the headwaters in Fahys Lake. Knife River, under close guidance from USFWS and ODFW staff, spent this week diverting the stream around an 8-foot waterfall that was created by an old mill, and removing two old culverts. This involves lining the diversion channel with rock, elevating part of the streambed to decrease the slope, and adding large wood and many tons of gravel to provide spawning habitat. This project is being led by USFWS Ecological Services branch, and is being done in cooperation with the private landowner.

Work on North Bank Lane is going very slowly, but concrete footings for the retaining walls around the new pedestrian underpass were poured this week, and more road grading has occurred. Refuge staff has begun sprucing up by removing invasive weeds, preparing to mount new interpretive signs, and cleaning the interpretive trail at the Ni-les'tun overlook area in anticipation of the October first dedication ceremony.
Posted by the Oregon Coast National Wildlife Refuge Complex Staff at 7:59 PM in Category: Ni-les'tun Tidal Marsh Restoration Project
August 30, 2011
Finishing Up
After last week's excitement over the climactic return of the tides to Ni-les'tun Marsh, the challenge this week was to maintain focus on completing the last details before getting all the heavy equipment out of the marsh. With every high tide the low elevation ground becoming noticeably wetter and softer. Working off a daily punch list of tasks to complete, Knife River brought the southwest levee to final grade, and dressed up the remaining footprints to blend the edges to the interior marsh level. As traffic on haul roads ended, road repair and decommissioning proceeded. A small tidal channel was extended about one hundred feet to facilitate drainage of a low spot, while other low spots were filled in. By the end of the week, most of a 600 foot long nature trail was built up and covered with gravel to provide easy pedestrian access along two small tidal channels, and over 3000 feet of former farm road had been decommissioned. Only a few more hours of final grading are needed to completely obliterate the main farm road that has been the primary travel route into the site for many decades. The higher tides later this month will bring more and more brackish water over more of the marsh surface to begin the process of recovery of the salt marsh. On Wednesday a managment team from Knife River including CEO Bill from Bismark, ND visited the project site and discussed the construction with Refuge staff and Ducks Unlimited engineer Randy Van Hoy. Saturday and Sunday participants of the annual Oregon Shorebird Festival hiked out to the mouth of Fahys Creek with Refuge employees to see the early reaction of birds to the changes here, and to anticipate the flocks they might see using the marsh in the near future as the habitat develops in their favor.

Work on North Bank Lane was focused on the headwalls that will be built at both ends of the pedestrian underpass near our office. Concrete forms were built for the wall footers, and an adjacent drainage culvert was installed. Tidewater Contractors also milled more sections of asphalt off North Bank Lane and removed surcharge from the Redd Creek section. They also and did more grading along the road.
Posted by the Oregon Coast National Wildlife Refuge Complex Staff at 1:10 PM in Category: Ni-les'tun Tidal Marsh Restoration Project
August 21, 2011
A Marsh Reborn!
Early Monday morning a crowd assembled at the mouth of Redd Creek to witness the removal of the tidegate. The work by Knife River employees began during the morning low tide to keep turbidity from entering the river. Work progressed as the tide began to rise and at precisely 10:46 a.m. a small coffer dam was breached and tidal flow surged into the new mouth of Redd Creek and began flowing upstream into the marsh. This event marked a pivotal week in the restoration project and was witnessed by Knife River crews, Refuge staff and volunteers, staff with Ducks Unlimited and Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, archaeologists with Byram Archaeological Consulting, Fish and Wildlife Service and the State Historic Preservation Office, and our visiting Chinese colleagues. The restoration of the Redd Creek portion of the project came off precisely as planned. On Tuesday morning crews reassembled at the mouth of Noname Creek for a repeat performance at this location as a low fog hung over the river and ground. The removal of the tidegate and final excavation of the new creek mouth at Noname Creek went off without a hitch. Later in the day Knife River Crews relocated to the north end of the west dike and began removing the dike down to the final grade. Removal of the north end of the west dike continued all day Wednesday. On Thursday morning Knife River crews began removing the temporary tidegate on Fahys Creek and excavated the new creek mouth down to an elevation of -1'. This work was again done around the low and incoming tide to push any turbidity created up into the new marsh. Big smiles were seen on everyone's faces as the tidal flow pushed through the creek mouth and began to flood into the new marsh. This marked the return of lower Fahys Creek to the historic location where it existed more than 100 years ago. Spoil from the dike removal and creek mouth excavation was used to fill the former artificial Fahys Creek channel. In a moving event at 3:25 p.m. as high tide approached, seven members of the Coquille Indian Tribe paddled through Fahys Creek and into the marsh in a large ceremonial canoe as other tribal members watched from shore. This marked the first time the tribe had paddled a canoe in the Ni-les'tun marsh in more than 140 years! Later as the canoe disappeared down river an osprey splashed down in the water in Fahys Creek submerging all but its wing tips. As it rose from the water with a fish in its talons everyone watching cheered and clapped.

On Friday and Saturday Knife River crews removed the remainder of the west dike, filled and capped the former artificial Fahys Creek channel, and began final removal of the outer levee in the SW corner of the project area.

During the week Tidewater Contractors was involved with a number of projects associated with the North Bank Lane improvement project. Installation of underground utility conduit and vaults continued and replacement of drainage culverts throughout the project area occurred. On Friday, the new entrance road to the Refuge office was roughed-in and the former entrance road was decommissioned. Spoil from the new entrance road cut was used to achieve finished elevation of a portion of the North Bank Lane grade raise at Fahys Creek.
Posted by the Oregon Coast National Wildlife Refuge Complex Staff at 8:52 PM in Category: Ni-les'tun Tidal Marsh Restoration Project
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