By Laura Brophy
The Estuary Technical Group (ETG) monitors tidal wetland restoration projects to track their effectiveness, glean "lessons learned" to guide future restoration work, and generally improve our understanding of estuarine ecology. On the southern Oregon coast, ETG, Oregon State University, and the Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians (CTSI) co-lead monitoring at the Ni-les'tun Tidal Wetland Restoration project at Bandon Marsh National Wildlife Refuge. Along with the Southern Flow Corridor project in Tillamook County (also monitored by ETG, OSU and CTSI), Ni-les'tun is one of the largest tidal wetland restoration projects on the Oregon coast. This project on the lower Coquille River has restored over 166 hectares (411 acres) of tidal marsh and tidal swamp that had previously been diked and cut off from the estuary for many decades. You can watch a very interesting video about the restoration at https://youtu.be/Dgyta4TDaEc.
The main work of restoration at Ni-les'tun – removal of dikes and other tidal flow barriers, and excavation of a tidal channel network -- was completed in 2011. During 2013-2015, many more tidal channels were added. In the nine years since the dikes were removed, native salt marsh vegetation has spread throughout the site, demonstrating that brackish tidal flows and the associated natural processes have been re-established. ETG and CTSI are also monitoring fish use of the site, water characteristics such as salinity and water temperature, channel characteristics, and soils. Look for more results in future ETG news!
ETG's monitoring at Ni-les'tun is funded primarily by the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board (OWEB), with in-kind contributions from many partners and volunteers. We are grateful for their generosity and for the opportunity to study the results of restoration at Ni-les'tun!