Tuesday June 4, 2024

NOAA Fisheries

NOAA’s Office of Habitat Conservation and partners are increasing numbers of threatened Upper Willamette River Chinook salmon by restoring habitat in Oregon’s McKenzie River watershed. Years of development and road building in the region altered stream flows, limiting the ability of adults to reproduce and juveniles to survive to adulthood. 

In 2022, NOAA provided the McKenzie River Trust $1.7 million in congressionally-directed community project funding to restore 150 acres of floodplain habitat at Finn Rock Reach. Adult Chinook spawned in the restored habitat last fall, laying eggs in 65 “redds”—gravel nests they scour out of the river bottom. A new generation of juvenile Chinook is now growing there and will eventually head downstream toward the ocean. 

The limited habitat prior to restoration work confined salmon to a small single channel. “We used a cut and fill operation to reconnect the river to the floodplain, dramatically increasing the wetted area where water can flow across the site,” says McKenzie River Trust Restoration Projects Manager John Trimble. “We then let the river do the work of rearranging the sediment into preferred flow paths.”

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