Elk Flats Estuarine Salmon Habitat Restoration

Elk Flats Estuarine Salmon Habitat RestorationRestoration objectives of the Columbia River Estuary Study Taskforce’s Elk Flats Estuarine Salmon Habitat Restoration Project were to create a forested wetland side channel in the lower reach of Ecola Creek, recreating critical rearing habitat for native juvenile salmonids.

HENDERSON is working with CREST, the Ecola Creek Watershed Council, and the City of Cannon Beach on implementation of the City’s Coastal Coho ESA Response Plan.  Elk Flats is located within a series of historic estuarine channels and backwater habitat in the lower Ecola Creek watershed.  Ecola Creek drains approximately twenty-two square miles and confluences directly with the Pacific Ocean.  The lower reaches of Ecola Creek provide excellent spawning habitat used annually by coho, Chinook, steelhead, and coastal cutthroat.  Restoration in the Elk Flats tidewater region helps to offset the loss of side-channel juvenile rearing habitat, the primary limiting factor for the success of native salmonids in the fresh to saltwater transition zone of Ecola Creek.

HENDERSON’S implementation of the Elk Flats Project effort restored approximately 2.5 acres of degraded tidally-influenced, forested wetlands to functional coastal salmonid habitat.  Project enhancements included; excavation of over 400 feet of side channel habitat to deepen wetland areas and recreate a tidal channel network, installation of large woody debris, and creation of a berm and bioswale adjacent to the highway to filter stormwater runoff.  HENDERSON’S design-build professionals creatively and cost-effectively ‘field-fit’ aspects of the design not apparent during the planning phase.

The Ecola Creek Watershed Council is very pleased with the work that Henderson Land Services performed for us during the construction of the Elk Flats Project.  This particular project presented substantial construction challenges, such as working with large equipment in small spaces and wet conditions.  In spite of these challenges, HENDERSON’S team of environmental professionals were able to complete construction work on schedule, while upholding and creatively achieving the design intent.   

– Madeline Dalton, CREST Project Manager

HENDERSON’S field restoration team successfully incorporated extensive buried wood and root masses, where trees had been inundated and killed in a long-ago tsunami.  Native slough sedge ‘clumps’ were salvaged in large quantities during excavation and installed into the newly constructed banks.  Within an hour of connecting the newly created backwater channel to Ecola Creek a river otter was seen swimming near the mouth obviously curious about the newly created habitat.

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