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Ruby Lake restoration complete, second phase to start in summer


by: SUBMITTED PHOTO - Allan Whiting, principal with Phil Trask and Associates, said about 50 percent of Ruby Lake is covered by reed canary grass. Increasing the lakes connectivity to the Multnomah Channel should choke out the invasive grass and encourage native growth.A private firm, Phil Trask and Associates, along with the Columbia River Estuary Study Taskforce, recently completed a restoration project on Sauvie Island’s Ruby Lake and will be moving forward tracking the project’s success as it relates to salmon runs.

The Ruby Lake Tidal Restoration Project was the first phase of an effort to encourage native plants and boost salmon runs. Trask and Associates and CREST will also move on to restoring two other sites on the island next summer.

Allan Whiting, principal with Trask and Associates, who headed up the project’s feasibility study with CREST, said on Monday, Nov. 25, that bulldozers left the Ruby Lake project site only two weeks ago.

“We completed phase one about Sept. 30 and just a clean-up has been taking place since,” Whiting said. “We’re starting phase two, which will be Millionaire and Deep Widgeon [lakes].”

For now, CREST and the private firm will keep a close eye on the Ruby Lake’s water levels and species populations while determining how to go about the other two, similar projects.

The Ruby Lake project is being funded by the Bonneville Power Association to improve fish passage in the area and remove invasive weeds.

“BPA put down money for juvenile salmon habitat, but we didn’t want to do that at the expense of waterfowl protected by [the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife],” Whiting said. “By bringing in more water, we thought we could meet the needs of both species.”

Whiting said Trask and Associates will make a proposal to CREST and BPA for phase two of the project next June.

The Ruby Lake project involved the removal of a water control structure that ran across a tidal slough on the lake. The structure was meant to control the lake’s water levels, but it wasn’t as effective as intended, said Tom Josephson, project manager with CREST, in an earlier interview with the Spotlight. The structure resulted in an increase in the invasive reed canary grass as well as a decrease in fish passage to the area.

Whiting said CREST took on the design and construction responsibilities of the project to remove the water control structure in order to lower the marsh plane, hindering the water-loving reed canary grass and allowing for easier passage of native fish.

Josephson said with less water, reed canary grass will thrive. By allowing more water, Crest and the private firm hope to choke out the grass and encourage native growth.

“It’s about 50 percent reed canary grass right now,” Whiting said.

Aside from CREST’s plans to replant the disturbed area with native willow and other shrubs, Whiting said his firm will be taking multiple steps to monitor the project’s success.

“We have an effectiveness monitoring plan in place. That’s where we’ll track and see how wetland plant communities respond,” he said. “One of the benchmarks was to increase native plant cover by 25 percent.”

Whiting said the monitoring plan entails detailed plant surveys and recording water levels with probes.

“We’re trying to increase the time the water stays there; increase the duration of water,” he said. “What we’re hoping to achieve is a 35.8 percent increase in water volume. ... When the snow-melt comes rolling down, that’s when we’ll be paying really close attention.”