The State Land Board at their April 12 meeting presented two 2015 Wetland Project Awards for projects in Columbia County: the Batwater Station Floodplain Restoration in Clatskanie, and the Sauvie Island-North Unit Restoration in the Sauvie Island Wildlife Area.

Department of State Lands Director Jim Paul thanked the project partners for "promoting responsible, sustainable stewardship of state natural resources. It's encouraging to know about and honor outstanding projects taking place throughout Oregon."

This is the 12th year of presenting Land Board Awards.

Located on property owned by Karin Hunt, the Batwater Station Floodplain Restoration Project involved restoring wetlands on a 26-acre section of the property and reconnecting it to the Columbia River.

Governor Kate Brown, chair of the Land Board, presented the award and praised the collaborative effort as a “wonderful example of how non-profit organizations worked with a private landowner to voluntarily preserve wetlands” for fish and wildlife habitat. She also commended the property owner for including people in the equation: Hunt allows camping on the property, which has 14 tent sites and kayaks available for campers.

“We have such strong partnerships in our area, and we are all so pleased that the Batwater Station project was honored by the State Land Board,” said Kari Olsen-Hollander, manager of the Columbia Soil and Water Conservation District, who nominated the project for an award.

The Land Board recognized the following partner agencies in the project: Columbia Soil and Water Conservation District, Lower Columbia River Watershed Council, Lower Columbia Estuary Partnership and Bonneville Power (funder), and landowner Karin Hunt.

The project involved constructing tidal channels, installing large woody debris, altering the topography, and planting native shrubs and trees to replace invasive reed canary grass.

Olsen-Hollander said the project planners used innovative restoration strategies from “The Beaver Restoration Guide Book” which touts modeling beaver behavior for restoring habitat for fish, waterfowl, amphibians and reptiles. Olsen-Hollander said that if the techniques prove to be successful over time, there could be significant cost savings in using them in designing future conservation projects.

State Treasurer Ted Wheeler, a member of the Board who presented the award, praised the scope of the Sauvie Island-North Unit Restoration Project, which opened up more than 330 acres of side channel and freshwater wetlands, and added 25,000 wetland plants, riparian shrubs and trees to the site.

“In addition to restoring wetland habitat, I was impressed with how the project proponents engaged local schoolchildren in the process," Wheeler said. The Columbia River Estuary Study Task Force (CREST) and consultant PC Trask & Associates have teamed up with the Sauvie Island Academy on an education and outreach program where sixth through eighth graders visit the site to learn about wetland ecology, endangered species and water quality. The students have planted more than 800 willows and 300 wapato bulbs at the site.

The project also involved lowering the marsh plain to contain the spread of invasive reed canary grass, and to provide better habitat for native marsh species.

“Our project team is greatly honored to receive this recognition from the Land Board,” said Tom Josephson, CREST project manager. “Our work over the last three years with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, as well as with many contractors and school kids, has made this a successful restoration project that will truly benefit salmon and other wildlife on Sauvie Island and in the Columbia River.”

The Land Board recognized the following organizations involved in the project: CREST, ODFW, Bonneville Power Administration (funder), Environmental Science Associates, PC Trask & Associates, Aquatic Contracting, and Biohabitats Inc.

The State Land Board consists of Governor Kate Brown, Secretary of State Jeanne P. Atkins and State Treasurer Ted Wheeler. The Department of State Lands administers diverse natural and fiscal resources. Many of the resources generate revenue for the Common School Fund, such as state-owned rangelands and timberlands, waterway leases, estates for which no will or heirs exist, and unclaimed property. Twice a year, the agency distributes fund investment earnings to support K-12 public schools. The agency also administers Oregon's Removal-Fill Law, which requires people removing or filling certain amounts of material in waters of the state to obtain a permit.

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