The Alsea Estuary is located near the town of Waldport, Oregon on the central coast. The Estuary drains the western slope of the Coast Range. The Alsea basin was once rated first in Oregon in importance for coho spawning. The Alsea watershed is now being managed for wild coho salmon following closure of the Fall Creek hatchery. The wild coho population has rebounded since hatchery closure and improved ocean conditions. The primary limiting factor for coho in the Alsea is low gradient winter habitat. Protection of these marsh habitats will help sustain the coho produced in the Alsea system. Alsea estuary has unusually large areas of high marsh in excellent condition.
Alsea Creek Acquisitions
The Wetlands Conservancy has acquired 241 acres of marsh and forest habitat in Alsea Bay to protect and restore vital habitats for salmonids, waterfowl, shorebirds and avian species. The acquisition was funded by a diverse group of community, state, federal interests including TWC, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s National Coastal Wetlands Conservation Grant Program, the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board (Oregon Lottery funds), and the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation. The Foundation supports the conservation of wildlife habitats identified in state wildlife action plans such as the Oregon Conservation Strategy, which includes the Bayview Oxbow and Starr Creek within the Alsea Bay Opportunity Area.
The acquisitions conserve 75 percent of the Bayview oxbow, as well as tidal marshlands and forested uplands adjacent to Starr Creek and near the Drift Creek wilderness area. Protecting these properties supports the priorities of conservation practitioners in the region, as well as aligning with state and federal planning.
Bayview Oxbow Hydrology Study
The Wetlands Conservancy is working with its new neighbors in the Bayview oxbow to understand the hydrology of the area and to explore the feasibility of reconnecting the historic oxbow back to Alsea Bay. These activities, as well as Conservancy acquisitions in the Yaquina estuary, and collaboration with Oregon State Parks and Recreation at Beaver Creek, are part of a multi-partner effort for conservation in a connected system between Newport and Waldport.
Bayview Oxbow is an extensive area of former tidal wetland. In the earliest photos examined (1939), this site was already ditched, diked and actively used for agriculture. Tidegates are present at both the east and west sides of the oxbow, where Bayview Road crosses the site. These tidegates are malfunctioning at the present time, allowing limited tidal exchange, particularly at the east end. Tidegate function has also been impaired by large amounts of storm wrack deposited along Bayview Road during recent winter storms. Many interconnecting ditches have been excavated over the past several decades in an attempt to drain the site, but despite this effort, much of the site is freshwater wetland, dominated by soft rush, reed canarygrass, and slough sedge.
The projects short term goal was to study the current hydrologic patterns and functions on the site and determine the feasibility and actions required to restore the historic connections and restore the high marsh habitat.