Clark County is pursuing three restoration projects that will improve habitat for salmon and other endangered species along the county’s waterways near La Center.
The county is working with Clark Public Utilities to restore native vegetation, and provide natural shelter for salmon and other animals along McCormick Creek, which feeds into the East Fork of the Lewis River east of La Center. The county owns the land there.
The county also is working with the Lower Columbia Estuary Partnership on two projects along the East Fork of the Lewis River: one along a side channel of the river and the other in the La Center wetlands. The Lower Columbia Estuary Partnership will help with erosion control while providing natural shelters for fish.
Both projects also include plans for improved trails and access.
“They can bring experience and other resources to the table,” said Patrick Lee, director of the county’s Legacy Lands program, which improves habitat and greenways across the county.
As a bonus, neither project is expected to cost the county a dime. Both organizations are seeking grant funding from the Salmon Recovery Funding Board, and the Lower Columbia Estuary Partnership is working with the Bonneville Power Administration for funding.
The projects are estimated to cost about $2.9 million.
Jeff Wittler, environmental resources manager for Clark Public Utilities, said the group’s efforts along the McCormick Creek will help improve the entire ecosystem.
“Just from a philosophical standpoint, we look at where’s the best bang for your buck?” Wittler said. “We prioritize. We feel small streams are much more able to impact salmon recovery.”
Marshall Johnson, an ecologist with the estuary partnership, said the work at the East Fork of the Lewis River will help restore water quality and habitat for a wide variety of fish.
“There are a lot of important species of salmon and steelhead in this river,” Johnson said. “They are more and more starting to be in trouble, and impact habitat over years and decades.”
Johnson also noted the importance of improving human access to the wetland area.
“If we can get people out to see and learn the importance of and become appreciative of the rivers and the wetlands, and the work that we do, then people will take on the stewardship of these places, too,” Johnson said.