CANNON BEACH - In an effort to aid coho salmon, the Cannon Beach Planning Commission has approved a conditional use permit for a habitat restoration project in Les Shirley Park.

The project will focus on restoring estuary and side-channel areas in the park, which offer salmon refuge from predators and major flood waters. Often, the side channels are also full of essential salmon nutrients. Salmon often use the side channels to "hang out and get acclimatized before going to the ocean," City Planner Rainmar Bartl said.

"This year, the city adopted an endangered species act action plan that addresses issues related to Coho salmon," he said. "One of the things on the list was to look at opportunities to restore the historic characteristics of Ecola Creek."

A city analysis of the creek showed that much of the salmon's historic habitat qualities have been lost due to urbanization and filling.

"It really showed us that those areas are not functioning properly as salmon habitat," he said.

The plan includes removal of fill material that partially covers estuary areas, as well as planting native shrubs, grasses and native trees. Work will also be done to provide a better connection between the creek and side channels, including one area where an existing horse trail cuts across the creek. Fish-friendly culverts will be placed in these areas, Bartl said.

The $165,000 project will be funded by the Oregon Department of Transportation as a mitigation project. Much of the regulatory paperwork is already done, but work on the estuary and side channel areas will not begin until September 2004, Bartl said.

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