Conserving land along our waterways protects important habitat and helps keep our rivers healthy, clean, and more resilient to drought. Riparian Protection projects conserve and restore fresh and saltwater habitat while protecting fish habitat. In doing so, the grants help provide our families, farms, and fisheries with clean water across the state.
In March 2020, the ~1,288 Wildboy Forest and Kwoneesum Dam land and water conservation project was completed through the purchase of fee simple title. The acquisition permanently protected 2.5 miles of Wildboy Creek, nearly a mile of Texas Creek, a half mile of the West Fork Washougal River, and nearly 11 acres of beaver dam wetlands within the Washougal River sub-basin of the Lower Columbia River watershed. The acquisition included the controlling interest in the mineral estate ensuring its mineral-rich soils will be protected from future mining activity. Long term management planning is complete with the Stewardship Plan finished in June 2021. Acquisition has enabled final planning work to begin for the removal of the 400′ long and 55′ tall Kwoneesum Dam–built in 1964 as a recreational amenity–that was a 100% barrier to fish passage to approximately 6.5 miles of quality spawning and rearing habitat for federally threatened steelhead and coho salmon. Dam removal, being led by the Cowlitz Indian Tribe’s fisheries program, will also begin to restore natural habitat function within Wildboy Creek, the West Fork Washougal, and the mainstem Washougal through reintroduction of watershed processes that transport spawning gravel and wood both on site and into downstream/offsite reaches. Dam removal is set to begin in 2023 with initial preparatory site work already underway. In addition to acquisition costs, RCO funding also covered two new gates to better manage access to the site, signs, and Columbia Land Trust staff time. The project reintroduced free public access to the site for the first time in approximately 10 years, and the site is already being used by neighbors and community groups from the Vancouver, WA metro area.