Ecola Creek Estuary & Habitat Restoration

Ecola Creek Estuary and Salmon Habitat RestorationRestoration objectives of HENDERSON’S Ecola Creek Estuary and Salmon Habitat Restoration Project were to restore a series of historic estuarine channels and backwater habitat, recreating critical rearing habitat for native juvenile salmonids.

As part of the City of Cannon Beach’s Coastal Coho ESA Response Plan, impetus for this effort was to reduce the City’s impact on threatened coastal Coho salmon runs.  Before hotels and houses, Ecola Creek’s side channels cut into tidally-influenced estuarine wetlands providing juvenile salmon heading for the ocean with habitat and refuge from predators, allowing them to grow from the abundant nutrients and undergo the physical changes that enable them to live in saltwater.  Additionally, this critical habitat also provided areas where adults coming into the creek to spawn could adjust to fresh water again.

Funded by the Oregon Department of Transportation as part of its environmental mitigation program, HENDERSON’S restoration response was to remove historic fill material and invasive species, revegetating the restored estuarine channels and backwater habitat with native salt-tolerant species.  Dr. Douglas Deur, a HENDERSON associate and the City’s project design consultant, directed our restoration team to creatively and cost-effectively ‘field-fit’ aspects of the design not apparent during the design phase.  Our design-build professionals removed decade’s worth of invasive species, fill, building rubble and trash.  Once excavation started, project ecologists knew they had hit the historical channels when they found large veins of trash.

 ‘In the process of creating fish habitat by clearing out the trash, old building materials and fill that had clogged channels of the Ecola Creek Estuary in Cannon Beach, project ecologists joked that they were finding everything but the kitchen sink.  That was before they unearthed two porcelain kitchen sinks.’ 

– Daily Astorian

HENDERSON’S field restoration team successfully adjusted to unexpected implementation challenges, including a layer of extensive submerged wood, where trees had been inundated and killed in a long-ago tsunami.  Within 48 hours of pulling that fill and trash, staff ecologists observed fish swimming in the re-created channels.  Herons, raccoon, and river otters have were also observed returning to the restored estuarine wetland and stream channel habitat.

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