Removing Barriers for Wildlife
Since 2003, the Refuge has been working with numerous partners to remove barriers for fish travel from its tributaries down into the Willapa Bay Estuary. To date, culverts on four streams (North, Lost, Chum and South Creeks) have been replaced by bridges and ten miles of stream habitat has been enhanced. The last partial obstacle, a culvert on Greenhead Slough was removed in 2015. A tremendous team of individuals, organizations, and agencies came together to remove the last remaining fish barrier to the 3.74 square mile (2,317 acres) watershed restoring fish passage to ten miles of streams for spawning and rearing by coho and chum salmon, cutthroat trout, and brook lamprey.
A Backward Glance at Greenhead Slough
Greenhead Slough was modified in the 1940s when the Washington State Department of Transportation re-routed four streams along State Route 101. A culvert/tide gate was later installed to allow road access to private timberlands. In 2003, the Willapa National Wildlife Refuge purchased the property with an existing Natural Resources Conservation Service Wetland Reserve Program easement as well as a right-of-way easement to Washington State Department of Transportation for State Route 101 and to Bonneville Power Administration for power lines and transmission towers.
When a Bridge is an Open Door
In 2014, the Friends of Willapa National Wildlife Refuge successfully obtained a grant from the Washington State Salmon Recovery Funding Board to remove this fish passage barrier. The grant provides $373,524 for the project. Willapa Bay Regional Fisheries Enhancement Group contributed $86,000 and Washington Coast Restoration Initiative contributed $75,000 to the restoration. These funds were managed by the Sustainable Fisheries Foundation. The Refuge also contributed approximately $475,000 in funds and in-kind labor.
Restoration began in June and was completed in August 2015. Work included abandoning the blocking culvert, realigning the existing channel, and installing a bridge over the new channel for access to the uplands. Native trees will be planted later this year. In addition, the access road for Bonneville Power Administration was realigned and the old access road was decommissioned.
Now completed, the daily influence of tides, mix of fresh and salt water, and growth of salt-tolerant plants, algae, and phytoplankton will create cycles of rich nutrients that provide essential food, spawning, and nursery habitat for chum and coho salmon and cutthroat trout. Hundreds of other species will also benefit, such as invertebrates, migratory and resident birds and mammals.
Learn more about the importance of estuarine conservation…
Tributary streams, North, Chum, Lost and South Creeks, are monitored by Refuge staff and volunteers. Annual spawning surveys have consistently documented chum and coho salmon, and cutthroat trout.
Discover how you can get involved…
Working Together for Wildlife at Greenhead Slough
The resources needed to accomplish this restoration effort reach well beyond the Refuge. Learn more about the Refuge partners that are working for wildlife in the Greenhead Slough watershed:
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