Army Corps of Engineers submits plan to restore Sturgeon Lake on Sauvie Island

The Army Corps of Engineers and Portland-based HDR Engineering Inc. completed a feasibility study Friday, Aug. 23, containing options to restore Sauvie Island’s Sturgeon Lake.

For decades, the lake has been filling with sediment due to the congested creek that feeds it.

According to an environmental assessment prepared by Oregon State University’s Water Resources Research Institute in 1987, Sturgeon Lake has been shrinking in size and shape since the mid-1800s, mostly due to human activities including diking, damming, land draining and the dumping of dredged sediment.

“The cost of the project could be as much as $7 million,” said Dick Springer, district manager of the West Multnomah Soil and Water Conservation District. “We just got a copy of the draft recommendations. We’re reviewing that now.”

by: SUBMITTED - John Gillian, of the West Multnomah Soil and Water Conservation District, surveys Sauvie Island's Sturgeon Lake.

Springer said the conservation district is the local sponsor for the Sturgeon Lake restoration project, but added he will be looking at “all potential partners” to identify additional funding. Springer said he is also curious about how the sequester might affect the project. “One of the big questions I have is about the federal budget situation,” he said. “I don’t know how that’s going to impact us.”

Springer said the plan outlined in the feasibility study involves dredging and clearing obstructions from Dairy Creek — the creek that feeds Sturgeon Lake — such as woody debris and sediment that have accumulated over the past 15 years.

In the late 1980s, the conservation district was involved in a project that successfully restored the flow of Dairy Creek to Sturgeon Lake, but floods in 1996 and 1997 brought debris into the creek, once again slowing its flow and obstructing aquatic life from passage.

Springer said a log boom was never installed in the initial project that could have deterred excess woody debris from entering and clogging the channel during floods.

by: SUBMITTED - Michelle Delepine, a conservation technician with the West Multnomah Soil and Water Conservation District makes use of a kayak a to survey the levels of Sauvie Island's Sturgeon lake.

“The spring runoff has been substantially reduced,” Springer said. “That means there’s little flow of water or connectivity of water through Dairy Creek to Sturgeon Lake. It has continued to have very shallow water in August and September, until the rain falls. That really threatens the value of habitat for aquatic species, salmonids and lamprey. And it’s a huge significance for waterfowl.”

The project’s goal, Springer said, is to restore Dairy Creek to be a functional creek for six to eight months out of the year.

“We want to restore connectivity and flow between the river and Sturgeon Lake for fish passage that, in turn, will help preserve the lake as an essential habitat for waterfowl and all kinds of aquatic species,” he said. “Who knows? Maybe even sturgeon will return to Sturgeon Lake.”

Once the Multnomah Soil and Water Conservation District board approves the feasibility study draft recommendations, it’s up to the Army Corps of Engineers to proceed. Springer said a design and engineering plan will likely be completed in summer 2014, with construction to follow in 2015.

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