Currently the last major construction phase of the 10 year restoration of the former Pixieland site is underway. This final effort will fill the Fraser Creek ditch, which will allow Fraser Creek to flow again into the Salmon River through its historical channel providing natural sinuous channels for fish rearing. This ditch is approximately 500 feet long and 5 feet deep and runs parallel to Highway 101 from Fraser Road to the Hwy 101 Salmon River bridge. The construction project will continue through most of the month of September.
This project is a milestone for US Forest Service (USFS) Project Manager Jared Richey, who pointed out that he’d been involved with this project for over 10 years. Jared indicated that “this ditch once had a tidegate and nearby sewage treatment infrastructure we had to pull out. That was a challenge! It’s so gratifying to see how good the tidal marsh now looks and to get this last work done.”
Since 2007 efforts have been underway to restore the former Pixieland amusement park site back to natural conditions. The goal is to re-create the natural marsh on these 57 acres that provides habitat that is essential to the salmon, steelhead, and other fish and wildlife in the Salmon River. Earlier phases at Pixieland involved the removal of all the buildings, asphalt, and other infrastructure, re-establishing stream channels, grading the site to historic marsh elevations, planting of native trees, shrubs and grasses, re-planting native species, and controlling invasive weeds.
Before the ditch can be filled though, biologists and hydrologists will be blocking off the ditch at both the Salmon River and Fraser Creek ends, pumping out the water, and capturing the salmon, lamprey and other fish that may be left stranded. Evan Hayduk, project manager for Salmon Drift Creek Watershed Council and Kami Ellingson, USFS Watershed Program Manager, will work alongside other biologists and hydrologists to get these animals to safety. According to Hayduk, “we work at low tide so there isn’t so much water in the ditch to begin with and work with seines and hand held nets to quickly transfer the animals to buckets.”
This effort is part of an overall plan by the U.S. Forest Service and other partners to restore the Salmon River estuary, a part of the Cascade Head Scenic Research Area, one of only two Biosphere Reserves in Oregon. Restoration efforts started in 1978 when only 28% of the original marsh remained. Dike removal projects have occurred over decades to restore the estuary and currently over 80% of the estuary is now open to the tides, with the tidal marshes now recovering their natural productivity and functions.
Watershed Project Manager Eillingson has seen the changes and monitored the results of all these restoration projects over the years. “None of this work has ever been exactly how we’d anticipated things… we are always adapting to needs and challenges on the ground, once we get going.” She explained that local contractor Paul Lindsey Trucking and Excavating was coordinating the delivery of all the soil that was needed to fill the ditch. “We thought it was going to take 7000 yards, but it turns out we’ll need more. Luckily we’ve had nothing but cooperation and it makes this work so much less stressful.”
Fishermen, kayakers and others will soon be able to enjoy the bounty and beauty of another restored tidal marsh.