In fall 2019, a multi-year effort to improve fish habitat for spawning winter steelhead and coho was successfully implemented at East Fork Dairy Creek. These migratory fish species rely on cool water and protection from predators as they make their way back to their spawning grounds, but as streams become degraded, many important habitat features can be lost. Now, thanks to a partnership of private landowners and conservation organizations, a 1.5-mile stretch of East Fork Dairy Creek and its tributary, Plentywater Creek, will be better able to support these important species.
In 2017, a landowner with conservation interests connected with the Tualatin River Watershed Council (TRWC) and Tualatin SWCD to explore options for improving the stream habitat on their property. The two organizations identified the property as a good fit for a streamside tree planting project. In addition, partners identified this area as a unique opportunity to leverage restoration funding from a variety of sources to increase habitat function in a stretch of creek that is very important to salmon production in the Tualatin Basin.
Previously in 2013, a fish biologist named Steve Trask conducted surveys for juvenile fish along East Fork Dairy Creek and reported on how productive this stretch of the creek was for winter steelhead and coho. As part of this partnership effort, he shared his findings with nearby landowners and communicated about how this habitat could be further enhanced and protected. Neighboring landowners had observed spawning salmon in the creek every year and were already interested in exploring ways to steward their land. Five more landowners were quick to join the partnership, and these landowners provided the conservation opportunities needed for the effort to be successful. TRWC was granted funds from the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board and TSWCD, and landowners matched program funding and in-kind contributions to support the restoration work.
In September 2019, boulder weirs, wood placements, backwater channels, and alcoves were installed in the creek. All of these improvements can help fish during their migration by providing refuge from the main channel’s flows, creating places to hide from predators, and easing their travel upstream. This restoration work was done over six adjacent properties and will be followed by weed management and tree and shrub planting, partially funded by Tualatin SWCD’s Habitat Conservation Program.
Visit trwc.org to see the results of salmon surveys in 2013 and 2014 that identified this area as an important salmon habitat, and stay on the lookout for a video about the project coming out soon.