Habitat Improvement at Steigerwald lake NWR
Steigerwald Floodplain Restoration Project
Following years of design and preparation, 2019 will see the beginning of perhaps the largest restoration project to ever take place on the Lower Columbia River. The main objective is to reconnect Steigerwald Lake NWR to the natural ebb and flow of the Columbia River. Wildlife will see a tremendous benefit, especially salmon and Pacific lamprey. The project will restore 912 acres of Columbia River floodplain habitat when it’s all said and done. Summer 2019 is the timeframe when visitors will begin to see temporary access disruptions to the Refuge.
September 3rd to October 15th, 2019: The parking lot and a portion of the Gibbons Creek Art Trail will be closed Monday though Friday from September 3rd to October 15th (see map below). During this time, crews will be placing large woody debris in the floodplain restoration work area marked in yellow on the map. Heavy equipment will be moving though the area, so the closure is part of ensuring public safety. Please follow all posted closure signs.
Summer 2019: The Refuge will begin invasive vegetation management activities around the area know as the “alluvial fan” (the area where Gibbons Creek ends on the Refuge and spreads sediment into the floodplain). Occasionally, the Refuge will need to close the parking area and a portion of the Gibbons Creek Art Trail during these vegetation management activities. Access to open areas of the Refuge is available from William Clark Park. See the map below for more information about where you can and can’t go during these temporary closures.
upcoming activities at the Alluvial fan
Preparing the Gibbons Creek alluvial fan site is an important part of the project that will happen prior to removing the Columbia River levee. Upcoming 2019 activities include:
Spraying to reduce the amount of reed canary grass
Discing (churning up the root mat) where the reed canary grass was sprayed
Placement of tree trunks and rood wads
Seed the area with a native plant mix
Plant native trees and shrubs
What problems will this project address?
The project is addressing two main issues, both of which are related to the levees in place on the Refuge’s West and South sides. Currently, the levee along the Columbia River prevents Gibbons Creek from naturally draining into the River, causing it to flood adjacent public and private lands and infrastructure.
The levee has also had a negative impact on aquatic wildlife. In particular, salmon and lamprey are denied access to 960 acres of important floodplain habitat.
Take a look at this project map from our parters at the Lower Columbia Estuary Partnership.