Columbia River Estuary Study Taskforce
U.S. Rep. Suzanne Bonamici has secured a provision in the federal Water Resources Development Act to clear the way for restoration of 52 acres of wetlands along the Walluski River by the Columbia River Estuary Study Taskforce.
The biennial water resources legislation authorizes the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to maintain the nation’s water infrastructure. It passed the House on a 408-2 vote and has a high likelihood of passage in the Senate.
Bonamici’s provision would deauthorize parts of the federally approved Clatsop County Diking District No. 13 levee system along the western banks of the Walluski River. The Corps has determined portions of the dike are in poor condition because of vegetation growth, slope failures and erosion.
“As we learn more about the environmental significance of wetlands to salmon and the environment, it makes sense to remove these levees and allow the natural ecosystem to return,” Bonamici said in a release about the project.
Denise Lofman, executive director of the task force, said the site along the Walluski is ideal for restoration because the topography along a rising hillside will not require any cross-dikes to protect surrounding properties from water coming into the new wetlands.
“Restoring and enhancing Columbia River Estuary wetlands through voluntary partnerships with private landowners increases essential off-channel habitat for juvenile salmon and improves the long-term protection and survival of one of our region’s most iconic species,” Lofman said.
The restoration project will be funded by the Bonneville Power Administration. The agency pays for the restoration of wetlands to offset the environmental impact of the hydroelectric dam system on the Columbia and Snake rivers.
The task force still needs to engineer the project and is likely a year or two away from restoring the wetlands, Lofman said.