Helicopter helps rehabilitate habitat at Metro park
The twin rotors of a Vertol helicopter could be seen hovering over Newell Creek long before its noise cut the air. The aircraft's turbine engines' high-whistled purring was heard as it revealed the uncommon sight of a steel cable protruding from the underside of the aircraft and the dangling 60-foot tree trunk traveling through the sky beneath.
Newell Creek Canyon Nature Park's restoration continues in partnership with the Greater Oregon City Watershed Council at the 236 acres that Metro opened to the public in December 2021.
"For a long time there has been a lack of wood in the streams; historically there was a lot of logging in the area which added too much wood to the streams," said Tom Gaskill of the Greater Oregon City Watershed Council. "The thought at the time was to remove the wood, but we've come to realize that we need wood in the streams to create deep-pool environments to give spawning fish the cool water they need to survive."
Helicopter work starting on July 20 involved a tandem-rotor helicopter operated by Columbia Helicopters out of Aurora, Oregon — a group experienced in construction, firefighting, logging and stream restoration.
The two-week project involves a helicopter and other heavy equipment to place logs in Newell Creek as part of a habitat-restoration project.
"This process will continue over the next couple of weeks with later portions of the project utilizing heavy equipment to place log jams into the banks without raising the flood level of the waterways," Gaskill said. The natural area encompasses the Abernethy-Newell creek confluence. Both creeks support salmon, steelhead and lamprey, all ocean-going fish that rely on cool, clean water.
Most of Greater Oregon Watershed Council's efforts have been directed toward Abernethy Creek and its tributaries though their operational boundaries cover all streams that flow directly into the Willamette River between the Clackamas and the Molalla rivers. Newell Creek flows into Abernethy Creek, which in turn flows into the Willamette below the falls.
"Strategic placement of these logs, about 200 pieces, each about 60 feet long, some with root balls attached and some without, as well as slash to add complexity helps to clean and filter the water for the Coho salmon, Pacific lamprey, cutthroat trout and steelhead that spawn here," Gaskill said. "We're building a total of 36 log jams, 32 on Newell Creek and four on Abernethy Creek to restore habitat for fish and other wildlife in the area."
As young fish feed and grow large enough to journey to the Pacific Ocean, they need plenty of cool, shaded hiding places with slow-moving water. In the past, these refuges were created by large trees falling into creeks, creating logjams. Because of past land uses, these logjams haven't formed often enough to support strong fish populations. Metro's current restoration project will help kickstart the logjam-building process, quickly providing places for juvenile fish to shelter before heading to sea.
Newell Creek Canyon Nature Park
Open: Sunrise to sunset.
Where: 485 Warner Milne Road, Oregon City
Wildlife: Park residents include beavers, red fox and black-tailed deer, along with pileated woodpeckers and cottontail rabbits.
Dogs: Pets are not allowed because they can damage sensitive habitat and threaten wildlife.
Stay on the trails: Do not alter any park trails or features. This helps protect sensitive habitat.
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