Project aims to restore Sauvie Island lake's fish habitat

by: SUBMITTED PHOTO: CREST - The invasive weed, reed canary grass has taken over Sauvie Islands Ruby Lake, choking out native plant species. The Columbia River Estuary Study Taskforce is moving forward with a restoration project on Sauvie Island’s Ruby Lake.

The Ruby Lake Tidal Restoration Project is an effort funded by the Bonneville Power Association to improve fish passage in the area and remove invasive weeds.

A current water control structure across a tidal slough on Ruby Lake—meant to control the lake’s water levels—has not been as effective as intended, said Tom Josephson, project manager with CREST. The water control structure has resulted in an increase in the invasive reed canary grass as well as a decrease in fish passage to the area.

CREST plans to remove the water control structure in order to lower the marsh plane, hindering the water-loving reed canary grass. This will also allow for easier passage of native fish, Josephson said.

On Friday, June 21, CREST applied for water quality permits through the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality in order to prove that no sediment runoff will enter the neighboring slough during the project’s implementation.

“Any CREST project is going to involve some amount of disturbance,” said Keith Johnson, Oregon DEQ’s water quality manager. Such water permits are required if the disturbed area is an acre or greater, he said.

Johnson said the permit requirements are “cookie cutter” and list general practices to prevent sedimentation runoff such as the strategic placement of straw bales and straw waddles (bags full of straw) along construction zones.

Oregon DEQ’s water quality specialist Jennifer Weaver said the basic purpose of the permit is to restore and mitigate any potential disturbance to the area.

“They [CREST] walk with an extremely light footprint. They understand the importance of water quality and I have found them to be very knowledgeable,” she said.

“Whenever we do a restoration project, we have to submit designs to show that the project is not detrimental to water quality,” Josephson said.

Once the permitting process is through, Josephson said construction will hopefully begin this summer.

“Once the excavation is complete, we will replant the area with willow and other shrubs,” he said. “We’ll also do hydro-seeding... we take a native grass seed and shoot it out of a giant tanker truck with a tackifier so it sticks.”

CREST is currently undertaking multiple restoration projects from the mouth of the Columbia River to Bonneville.

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