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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
These are all of the Ni-les'tun Tidal Marsh Restoration Project news updates posted in August, 2011.
Tuesday, 30
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 / Category: Ni-les'tun Tidal Marsh Restoration Project
Sunday, 21
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 / Category: Ni-les'tun Tidal Marsh Restoration Project
Saturday, 13
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 / Category: Ni-les'tun Tidal Marsh Restoration Project
Friday, 5
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 / Category: Ni-les'tun Tidal Marsh Restoration Project
Monday, 1
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 / Category: Ni-les'tun Tidal Marsh Restoration Project
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Site last updated March 8, 2011