The Sandy River Basin Watershed Council is launching a major Salmon restoration effort at Metro’s Oxbow Regional Park April 1. Fish will thrive with large wood jams in a side channel of the Sandy River, a new culvert and restored habitat on Happy Creek, and new native trees and vegetation planted in surrounding riparian areas.
The Happy Creek Reconnection will restore the natural path of a perennial stream that was diverted when the Oxbow Park road was built in the 1940s. The Happy Creek Reconnection will also restore .3 miles of a side channel of the mainstem Sandy, which Happy Creek joins near the river, to expand habitat for migrating wild fish.
First stage construction will install a culvert across the current Oxbow access road. This will allow Happy Creek to flow into its original channel, but require temporary closure of Oxbow Park and its boat ramp from April 1-5. While we apologize for any convenience, when one road is closed (temporarily), a new path for fish habitat will be opened.
Historic alterations to the river blocked flows from side channels throughout the Sandy, which provide key habitat especially for juvenile wild fish. Reconnecting Happy Creek (via a new culvert under the road) and its side channel, and adding engineered log jams at the side channel’s inlet and alcove, will send water into the side channel more often, encourage pool formation and habitat diversity, and create cool water refugia for migrating wild salmon and steelhead. The project will also restore native trees and vegetation to 100 surrounding acres to ensure healthy riparian cover and shade. An interpretive sign from the project site explains project goals and actions.
The Council is partnered with Metro, which operates Oxbow Regional Park, and the US Bureau of Land Management to implement the creek and side channel restoration, with funding from Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board (OWEB), East Multnomah Soil and Water Conservation District, and Portland General Electric’s Habitat Fund.
The Bureau of Land Management has released an Environmental Assessment of the Happy Creek Reconnection, finding no significant impact “because the proposed action would improve Critical Habitat both in the short and long term” for salmon and steelhead listed threatened under the Endangered Species Act.
The Happy Creek project is the first of a series of Lower Sandy River restoration projects identified as high potential ecological value in a study completed in 2011 by Metro, BLM, the Council and other Sandy River Basin Partners. The Lower Sandy Prioritization study explored 8 miles of the Lower Sandy, from Oxbow Park through Dabney State Park, to identify high value habitats that could be restored.
Additional photos of the project area are available in the project photo summary.
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