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Coho Restoration Stories
Five Partnership Projects Help Fish, Improve Water and Benefit Landowners
Oregonians are committed to solving water problems and protecting fish and wildlife habitat.  From urban backyards to rural barnyards, landowners voluntarily work with neighbors, scientists, conservation groups, and public organizations to improve watershed conditions. At the same time, property owners solve problems that affect their land management.  
Oregon is concentrating on reviving coho salmon, which were once abundant along the Oregon Coast and supported a thriving fishing industry. Coho are anadromous—they hatch and grow in freshwater for about a year, spend a couple of years in the ocean and return to streams to lay eggs. For the cycle to work well, coho need streams with cool water and gravel areas where they lay eggs. Young coho seek calm pools with an abundance of nooks, crannies, and wood where they find shelter and food. People are working together to create conditions that improve coho production while maintaining or improving productivity of the land.

People Help Coho Brochure
Download full color version of People Help Coho brochure.

Get Involved!
Join thousands of Oregonians who are connecting with groups that provide advice and funding for projects such as the five profiled here.  Organizations listed below are working on watershed projects and are ready to help you take action to protect and restore your part of Oregon.
Contact your local:
The Network of Oregon Watershed Councils provides a complete listing of watershed councils and their contact information at www.oregonwatersheds.org
Contact the Oregon Association of Conservation Districts at (503) 566-9157 or www.oacd.org
The Extension Service provides a complete listing of Extension offices and their contact information at http://extension.oregonstate.edu
Purchase a salmon license plate for your vehicle ($30 additional charge every two years) to support salmon habitat projects. www.salmonplate.org

Project Gives Fish Space to Spawn
East Humbug Creek, Clatsop County
Oregon Lottery Funds approved by OWEB: $234,000                              
Total estimated project cost:  $460,000
A restoration project restored passage to seven miles of East Humbug Creek that were previously inaccessible to fish.  Project partners returned the creek to fish-passable condition by replacing three inadequate culverts with bridges and two failing culverts with fish-friendly culverts.
East Humbug Creek, located in the Upper Nehalem River subbasin, is recognized as an important stream for a variety of native fish.  At one site, a failing culvert had completely blocked coho movement to upstream areas for many years.  Shortly after the culvert was replaced, three spawning adult coho were observed in an area previously off limits to them.  The fish passage corrections were one component of a large restoration effort.  Other project activities included planting streamside trees to cool the water and placing large wood in the stream to offer hiding places for fish. 
The East Humbug Creek project is an inspiring example of a cooperative conservation effort by a diverse group.  The landowner generously donated half of the resources needed to complete the project.  State and federal agencies worked closely with the watershed council to plan and implement project activities.  Local businesses provided many of the materials and services necessary to complete the project.  The watershed council, the landowner, and other project partners offered tours of the project site to share the restoration lessons they learned.

Contractors replaced culverts with bridges to open seven miles of stream to fish.
Photo shows drop in water level stopping fish passage.
Project Partners:
Longview Fibre Company
Oregon Department of Environmental Quality
Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife
Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board
Oregon Youth Conservation Corps
Upper Nehalem Watershed Council
U.S. Bureau of Land Management

Marsh Flies Feed Salmon
Salmon River Estuary, Lincoln County
The U.S. Forest Service provided funding for the restoration project and Oregon Sea Grant funded the majority of the research work.            
In 1996, a dike was breached in the Salmon River Estuary to restore tidal waters to nearly 75 acres of marsh.  Scientists discovered that the restored marsh was being used by foraging juvenile salmon.  The young salmon were eating energy-rich aquatic flies, which were documented in higher abundance in the restored marsh than in nearby areas.  Information collected from the marshes was used to develop computer simulations, which showed that the high-energy flies helped salmon grow faster in the restored marsh than in other areas.  Fast growth makes it easier for salmon to find food and avoid predators.  The energy-rich flies also enabled the salmon to more effectively cope with warm water temperatures in the estuary.

Insect traps showed that a restored marsh contained more energy-rich flies for young salmon than adjacent marshes.

Photo by Jeffery R. Cordell
Closeup of energy-rich flies.
The Salmon River Estuary has undergone a series of marsh restoration projects since 1978.  The estuary is a unique natural laboratory for scientists who evaluate the effects of habitat restoration projects on salmon.  Restoration scientists work with the estuary’s landowners to ensure that private properties not slated for restoration are unaffected by habitat projects in the estuary.  
Project Partners:
Ducks Unlimited
National Marine Fisheries Service
Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife
Oregon Sea Grant
Oregon State University
Private landowners
University of Washington
U.S. Forest Service
Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife
Washington Sea Grant

Restoration Doubles Coho Survival
Green River and Crab Creek, Lane County
Oregon Lottery Funds approved by OWEB:  $231,000                             
Total estimated project cost: $857,000
Fish monitoring has shown that coho winter retention in Green River and Crab Creek increased from 27% before a restoration project to a post-project, five-year average of 57%.
In 2000, a group of private landowners, agencies, and conservation organizations united to address disappointing salmon and steelhead production in Green River and Crab Creek, tributaries of Five Rivers in the Alsea Basin.  The partners designed a restoration project to improve channel and floodplain conditions for salmon, with the expectation that improving wintering conditions for juvenile coho would result in increased survival.  The project placed more than 400 pieces of wood in the channels and eliminated six miles of unneeded valley-bottom roads.  By improving habitat conditions, more juvenile coho are now able to remain in Green River and Crab Creeks during the winter, thus avoiding potentially deadly conditions elsewhere and most likely surviving to reach the ocean in spring.

Large pieces of wood placed by helicopter boosted salmon winter survival by slowing water flow and providing hiding places for fish.
Project Partners:
Alsea Community Effort
Bio-Surveys LLC
MidCoast Watersheds Council
Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife
Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board
Private landowner
Roseburg Resources
U.S. Forest Service

Coho Count Triples
Knowles Creek, Lane County
Oregon Lottery Funds approved by OWEB for monitoring in this creek and other locations within the Siuslaw basin:  $221,000   
Total estimated project cost for monitoring in the entire Siuslaw basin: $645,000
The number of juvenile coho in Knowles Creek has tripled since a large-scale restoration project was begun in 1992.  A fish count conducted from 1992 to 1994 documented approximately 11,000 juvenile coho salmon in Knowles Creek. 
A coho count conducted from 2004 to 2006 showed approximately 36,000 juveniles in the creek.  Spawning coho are thought to have averaged more than 100,000 in the Siuslaw Basin in the 1800s.  By the 1990s, the basin’s coho runs had declined to approximately 7% of historic levels.
The Siuslaw National Forest and its project partners undertook an extensive restoration project to improve coho habitat in Knowles Creek.  The partners placed more than 100 wood structures in six miles of stream, thinned 12 acres of riparian forest adjacent to two miles of stream to encourage the growth of long-lived trees, replaced or removed culverts on five miles of roads, and storm-proofed roads.  The coho increase in Knowles Creek is likely the result of a combination of events, including the restoration efforts, improved ocean conditions, and harvest reductions.     

Using a fish-friendly trap, students documented that juvenile coho tripled in 10 years.
Project Partners:
Hancock Forest Management
Lincoln Timber LLC
Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife
Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board
Pacific Rivers Council
Pacific West Timber (Oregon) LLC
Private landowners
R&R King Logging
U.S. Forest Service
Siuslaw Watershed Council
The Campbell Group

Restoration Cools Creek 10 Degrees
graph showing change in water temperature
Willanch Creek, Coos County
Oregon Lottery Funds approved by OWEB: $167,000
Total estimated project cost:  $292,000
Long-term temperature monitoring at a restoration site on Willanch Creek has shown that the maximum seven-day temperature at the downstream end of the restoration site dropped from 74° F to 64° F in eight years.  Water temperatures of 64° F or lower are essential for the growth and survival of juvenile coho salmon. 
In addition to substantially reducing water temperatures, Willanch Creek restoration projects have reduced streambank erosion, released salmon spawning gravels that were trapped behind undersized culverts, provided fish access to previously blocked areas, and created pools and hiding places for fish.
Willanch Creek is a Coos Bay tributary that was plagued by eroding banks, old culverts that limited fish access to upstream areas, and high water temperatures caused by a lack of streamside trees and shrubs.  From 1991 to 2004, project partners worked hard to remove invasive plants, stabilize slumping banks with natural materials, replace inadequate culverts with bridges, place large pieces of wood in the creek, install livestock fencing, and plant native vegetation.

A restoration project produced shaded, cool conditions dropping water temperatures 10 degrees.

Same site, 10 years earlier.
Project Partners:
Coos Bay – North Bend Water Board
Coos County Road Department
Coos Watershed Association
Lone Rock Timber Company
Menasha Corporation
Oregon Department of Environmental Quality
Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife
Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board
Private landowners
U.S. Bureau of Land Management
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Weyerhaeuser Timber Company