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Work at the National Wildlife Refuge is focused on restoring the creek to its original shape.

PMG PHOTO: JACKSON MAIN - The Atfalat'i Unit at the Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge near Sherwood will be getting some TLC as work begins on restoring Chicken Creek.The Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge is starting a yearlong project to re-create the original curvature of Chicken Creek.

The creek, which naturally flowed into the Tualatin River, was constructed into a single straight line a century ago for farming purposes.

"When you straighten (a creek), the water goes a lot faster and carries a lot more sediment in it, and it doesn't carry as much diversity in the channel," Refuge manager Larry Klimek said. When it returns to its natural flow, he added, "It'll slow down and spread out over the landscape."

The construction will help create a natural wetland system on the Refuge's 280-acre Atfalat'i Unit.

Klimek said he doesn't anticipate water staying in the creek channel, because beavers will most likely come and dam portions of the creek, causing it to pond and flood.

"It just creates a whole lot of other diversity," he said. "So now you have water influencing a much larger area than just one strip coming down."

The construction has been a part of the Refuge's comprehensive conservation plan since 2013.

Organizations like Ducks Unlimited, Friends of the Tualatin National Wildlife Refuge, Willamette Water Supply and Clean Water Services are sponsoring the project.

As a part of restoring the habitat, the Refuge is also increasing the length of its trail system for the public to enjoy, Klimek said.

The Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge is a popular spot for bird-watchers, photographers and nature walkers, drawing nearly 150,000 visitors each year.

Throughout the process, the Refuge has planned to host volunteer work parties to remove invasive species and help plant native species like Oregon ash, wapato, Nelson's checkermallow and a variety of willow species, Klimek said.

The next volunteer opportunity will be Sept. 28, National Public Lands Day, Klimek said.

Osprey, eagles, ducks and swans all call the refuge home at different points in the year.

Fish species like cutthroat trout are expected to expand and improve after the creek is realigned.

Excavators will begin moving dirt and carving out a channel for Chicken Creek on Monday, Aug. 19.

Klimek said he expects the channel to be two-thirds of the way constructed by the end of the summer, with plans to wrap up the process by summer 2020.


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