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Coastal Restoration


Coastal Restoration

Returning Oregon and Washington rivers to full strength.

Even some salmon strongholds are in need of repairs. On the Oregon and Washington Coasts, Wild Salmon Center is working to restore salmon and steelhead streams impacted by more than 160 years of logging, mining, road building, and other development.

Our unique approach to restoration includes working with government agencies and local partners to prioritize the most important restoration work for salmon recovery and then developing a pipeline of shovel-ready projects. With significant federal and state funding now flowing to these projects, our work with coastal partners is delivering real benefits.

Over the last five years, WSC has leveraged NOAA and other state and federal grants to fund restoration projects on at least 35 sites on the Washington and Oregon Coast.

Where We Work on Restoration

WSC and our partners implement a range of projects—from culvert and tidegate replacements to instream wood placement and beaver recruitment. Each project is designed to restore natural processes so a watershed can function without further human intervention.

Overview maps of areas where WSC works with restoration partners in Oregon and Washington.

Restoration Priorities for Coastal Salmon

The most common restoration strategies called for in the plans include large woody installation, beaver recruitment, tidal reconnection, habitat protection, and riparian and fish passage enhancement.

Restoration work pays dividends for people and fish.

Every $1 million invested in restoration projects creates 15-30 jobs in local communities.  By leveraging private and philanthropic dollars into larger project funding awards managed directly by community organizations, WSC is helping to build local capacity up and down the coast. More work for people who possess key local knowledge of watersheds means faster and smarter project implementation.

West Fork Evans Creek project site in Oregon. (Brian Kelley @brianfilm)

In Oregon, our Coast Coho Partnership is accelerating work coastwide, and our work is already returning dividends with significantly improved coho recovery trends noted in a 2022 National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration assessment. In Washington, we are helping key partners deliver simultaneous benefits of flood damage reduction and habitat restoration for the human and salmon populations that need both. And, our Cold Water Connection Campaign is reconnecting salmon to critical cold water habitats that have been blocked for decades. Learn more about our restoration approach in the video below, and then dive into on-the-ground projects in Oregon and Washington

Washington: Restoring Habitat, Building Resilience

Where lush rainforest meets the sea on the Olympic Peninsula, Washington’s coastal rivers produce the most abundant and diverse remaining wild Pacific salmon populations south of Canada.

But these stronghold rivers have been impacted by decades of human alteration. On the Quillayute River, the Quileute Tribe is working to restore the historically braided path of the river near the Tribal village of La Push. Historically, humans have dramatically altered the path of the river, causing erosion and intense flooding during high flow events. There’s risk of a catastrophic event that would divert the river directly through La Push; this has jumpstarted restoration and a focus on sound natural infrastructure planning and execution.

Simultaneously, Wild Salmon Center is leading a collaborative, science-driven process to develop priority restoration actions—like those underway by the Quileute Tribe—throughout the entire Quillayute watershed.

Additionally, a coalition of folks, led by Wild Salmon Center, the Coast Salmon Partnership and Trout Unlimited, are working through the  Cold Water Connection Campaign to remove fish passage barriers and reconnect 125 miles of currently blocked habitat—including sections of iconic salmon watersheds like the Quillayute, Hoh and Queets.

Oregon: Coho Drive Watershed Restoration

The watersheds that drain the 300-mile-long Oregon Coast rank among the most intact and diverse salmon ecosystems in the Pacific Northwest. However, legacy resource extraction has jeopardized the health of these watersheds and led to Endangered Species Act listing for two populations of Oregon Coast coho.

In 2015, Wild Salmon Center convened the public-private Coast Coho Partnership to recover Oregon Coast coho through science-driven restoration work and sound watershed management. Because coho range throughout watersheds during their life history, efforts to restore their habitat delivers benefits to all salmon species.

At the heart of our work is collaborative, science-driven strategic action planning in each watershed, which creates a playbook for priority restoration actions.

Working alongside landowners along Oregon’s Elk River, WSC and our CCP community members have improved salmon habitat while upgrading local transportation infrastructure and protecting working landscapes for future generations.

On the lower Elk, seven CCP restoration projects are now showing their cumulative impact, as Oregon Coast coho begin to return in stronger numbers, and local landowners benefit from reduced erosion and flooding.

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