BPA wants to flood former dairy farm

The 221-acre parcel proposed for wetland mitigation, seen here in the center of the photo, comprises a slab of tidal marshland jutting southwest from Oregon Highway 202 near the confluence of the Wallooskee (Walluski) and Youngs rivers.

The Bonneville Power Administration is accepting comments until Jan. 28 on the draft environmental assessment and impacts of a project to flood a former dairy farm at the confluence of the Wallooskee (also Walluski) and Youngs rivers and turn it over to conservation by the Cowlitz Indian Tribe.

The Wallooskee-Youngs Confluence Restoration Project would flood and conserve 221 acres of historical tideland to re-establish tidal marshes for salmon, steelhead and other wildlife habitat. More information about the project and a copy of BPA’s draft environmental assessment can be found at www.bpa.gov/goto/WallooskeeYoungs

BPA is accepting comments on the project by mail and online. Comments can be made online at www.bpa.gov/comment or mailed to: Bonneville Power Administration; Public Affairs — DKE-7; P.O. Box 14428; Portland, OR 97293-4428. When commenting, refer to the full project name.

The proposed Wallooskee-Youngs Confluence Restoration Project breaches a levy authorized by the 1936 Flood Control Act and managed by Clatsop County. It surrounds a point of former dairy farmland jutting southwest from Oregon Highway 202 about five miles from the Columbia River. Congress deauthorized the levee (as a federal levee) within the project area, through the passage of the Water Resources Reform and Development Act of 2014 (H.R. 3080).

The project restores historic tidal inlets and native vegetation, enhancing estuary rearing habitat for juvenile salmon and steelhead, as well as provide habitat for wildlife such as deer, elk and river otter.

An existing BPA transmission line and access road would be modified to withstand the new tidal regime. Structures on the property — a house, barn and outbuildings — would be removed to return the upland area to its natural condition.

BPA proposes to provide funding for the project, estimated at $5 million to $7 million by its representatives, to help meet its obligations under the Endangered Species Act to mitigate the impact of the Federal Columbia River Power System. The 31 federally owned dams provide about 60 percent of hydroelectric power in the region. The agency runs an Environment, Fish & Wildlife program to promote restoration of salmon habitat as an offset.

Astoria Wetlands, LLC, an environmental resources company, owns the property and would conduct the restoration work. The Cowlitz Indian Tribe would assist in implementation, take possession of the property after completion and provide long-term stewardship to ensure permanent protection. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the permitting agency for levee modification and wetland work, helps develop the environmental assessment.

BPA is preparing an environmental assessment following the National Environmental Policy Act to assess anticipated impacts and include mitigation measures that would help avoid or minimize them. During this process, BPA will work with landowners, tribes, federal, state and local agencies and interest groups.

During the scoping period of the project last year, BPA received 19 comments, which it used to help create its draft environmental assessment. Several of the comments showed concerns over the effect of erosion and wave action on Highway 202, adjacent to the project area.

Rudy Salakory, aquatic restoration manager for the Cowlitz Tribe, said that while the partners are still in negotiation with the Oregon Department of Transportation, they’re proposing to build a sheet pile structure along Highway 202 in the project area to protect it from wind, water and waves.

Jason Karnezis, BPA’s manager on the project, said ODOT had suggested the sheet pile wall after seeing potential effects of wave action after the land is flooded.

Several other comments during the scoping period requested public access to the land if turned over to conservation. Karnezis said that discussion would happen after the project is complete.