SEASIDE - A $748,536 project designed to improve fish passage and water quality for the south fork of the Necanicum River is slated to begin July 9, according to Melyssa Graeper, coordinator with the Necanicum Watershed Council.

“It will be a successful project by citizens not recognizing the difference,” Graeper said following a presentation of the project during the Seaside City Council meeting June 11. “We will not change the water availability. Our project won’t cause a rate increase. It will help the stream to be fish-friendly.”

The improvement project involves notching out the dam to lower it by two feet and to build up the channel above and below the dam to even out the river grade. Logs will also be placed in the stream as part of the enhancements.

“One of the remarkable parts of this project is that it will make access of about two and a half miles of the stream much easier for young salmon,” said Seaside Public Works Director Neal Wallace.

The project will also give the city the tools to regulate how much water is taken from the channel.

"We are replacing the existing city water pumps at Peterson Point with variable-frequency speed pumps," said Graeper. That will greatly improve the efficiency of the system, secure the needed water for the city and help with fish passage."

The Watershed Council and the City of Seaside have partnered with the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), National Marine Fisheries Service, and Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) for the river project and to share the cost of the improvements.

The Watershed Council has secured a $491,690 grant from the Oregon Water Enhancement Board (OWEB). USFW has committed to pay $149,000, ODFW $82,946, Marine Fisheries Services will pay $10,800 and the City of Seaside has pledged $10,600 in volunteers and $3,500 donated labor.

Graeper also told the council that work on a culvert replacement project at Coho Creek near Seaside Heights Elementary School that will cost just under $600,000 will begin immediately after school ends this month.

“The old 145 foot culvert has rusted out and it is failing,” Wallace said.

“Because the Watershed Council was able to get two grants for this project it will save the Seaside School District a bunch of money,” Graeper said “The District estimates that replacing it on their own would cost them the equivalent of 10 to 15 teacher's positions.”

The culvert replacement project is slated to be finished before school begins next fall.

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