Located just southeast of the town of Seaside, Oregon, the project site is the result of extensive filling of flood plain of the Necanicum River, and the entire relocation of the river channel from overburden to develop a hard rock quarry in the mid-1950s. In addition, the focus restoration area was mined for alluvial basalt cobble then diked to create a lake as an amenity to the “Forest Lake campground and RV park” in the late 60’s. Two lakes were excavated from a former river channel to mine alluvial cobbles and were then diked off from the Necanicum. Referring to the image below, and the attached “Area Map” on page 2 of the attached planning and engineering documents, the project area consists of two main ponded areas separated from the Necanicum River mainstem by a dike, and from each other by a road. The road features a failing 12-inch perched culvert that inputs sediments – and fish – during high water events from the south end into the north end.
During the strongest storm event recorded on the north Oregon coast (the great coastal gale of 2007) the southern lake dike failed due to hydraulic erosion during near record high river flows around a failing overflow culvert. Since then, during flows above ordinary high water and higher, coho salmon are drawn to the temporal clear-water low-energy backwater environment when the drained lake is inundated. A small 12-inch failing culvert that connected the two lakes under the campground access road now allows young-of-the-year coho parr with the first fall rains above ordinary high water and coho fry in spring to access the northern pond. The culvert invert is +/-3 feet higher than the pond surface during winter, resulting in significant storage that provides high function winter habitat for salmonids and lamprey that access the pond. However, by late May to early June as groundwater levels drop, the pond subs out to mucky veneer resulting in the catastrophic loss of any fish and aquatic species present. In addition, the northern pond receives the raw water overflow from the City of Seaside water storage reservoir immediately uphill of the site. This overflow ends as low summer flows begin, contributing to the rapid dewatering of the pond in early summer.
The Necanicum Watershed is one of only eight conservation estuaries on the Oregon coast and is considered a “conservation watershed for coho salmon” by ODFW. This restoration project when implemented will have a direct effect on returning adult coho spawners when the kill/entrainment site is eliminated. Based on visual observation, up to several thousand coho fry and parr have been lost at the Forest Lake project site from water bird predation and dewatering each year since 2007, which is a significant amount of coho production within the watershed.
The principals and designers of the Forest Lake Project have extensive experience using the same principles and techniques planned for this site in other projects on the lower Necanicum River over a number of years. The largest and most notable example is the 12-acre Neitzel Farm off-channel wetland restoration and reconnection project just upstream of Forest Lake, completed in 2009-10. The Neitzel Farm project stands today as a model for wetland restoration and reconnection, and has received numerous awards – including official recognition in the US Congressional Record – for its success.
Objectives for this project include:
- RESTORE the historic functionality of the site;
- RECONNECT access to and from the restored refuge;
- RESTORE and PROTECT water quality by closing off a sediment input at a failing culvert; and
- INCREASE wild fish production and survival
Long-term, the site will serve as an easily accessible “living classroom” that can demonstrate and sustain a strong future conservation ethic, and the critical importance of functioning off-channel wetland areas for innumerable native species.
This project is sponsored by the Necanicum Watershed Council and the Wild North Coast chapter of Trout Unlimited, and funded by ODFW’s Restoration & Enhancement Board, the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board, Trout Unlimited’s Embrace-A-Stream funds, the Oregon Wildlife Heritage Foundation’s Beulah Drake Grant Program, the Jubitz Family Foundation, and three separate DEQ Supplemental Environmental Projects, with generous in-kind support from Teevin & Fisher Quarry LLC, Carex Consulting, McKenzie Tree Farm, Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife’s North Coast District office, the City of Seaside, and volunteer help from the Clatsop-Nehalem Confederated Tribes, Tualatin Valley and Corvallis “Bluebacks” chapters of Trout Unlimited, and Seaside’s local Boy Scout Troop 642.