WASHOUGAL — Juvenile salmon face a gauntlet of perils on their difficult journey down the Columbia River to the Pacific Ocean.
Dams, predators, degraded habitat, and polluted runoff from rural activities and urban development take their toll on young salmon. Those that survive will spend their adult lives in the Pacific before returning to their birth streams to spawn and die.
“They are really looking for flood plains to rest and rear and grow as they prepare to enter the ocean,” said Chris Collins, a principal restoration ecologist with the Lower Columbia Estuary Partnership. “Research has shown that the better shape they are in when they hit the ocean, the higher chance of survival.”
The Steigerwald Floodplain Restoration Project, the largest project of its type attempted on the lower Columbia River, is designed to boost survival for a number of fish species: steelhead and cutthroat trout; chinook, coho and chum salmon; and Pacific and western brook lamprey.
After more than five years of planning, design and coordination, the project is close to construction. A ceremonial groundbreaking is set for 3:30 p.m. Sept. 5 at the Steigerwald Lake National Wildlife Refuge, managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, east of Washougal at the entrance to the Columbia River Gorge.