Working Together for Healthy Streams and Fish
Our restoration projects are helping to protect the city from flooding, to improve spawning habitat for fish, and to create beautiful public spaces everyone can enjoy.
Rainier's Fox Creek and Nice Creek are important to the community. They provide drinking water, wildlife habitat and recreational opportunities. But, over the years, the creeks have been neglected and damaged by development, diversion, damming, poor watershed management practices and illegal dumping.
Since 1991, Friends of Fox Creek has been working with property owners and government entities to restore and protect these streams, through the following projects:
FFC President Bob Burnham is spearheading an effort to place logs and root wads at strategic locations in Fox Creek, to create pools for fish habitat and moderate the energy of the stream during high water.
The project area includes the Burnham property and the city watershed below the reservoir. The project is a partnership with the City of Rainier, the Lower Columbia River Estuary Partnership (LCREP), the Lower Columbia River Watershed Council (LCRWC) and the Columbia Soil & Water Conservation District.
Selected trees will be provided by the city from its stands along the creek and by Bob, whose family tree farm straddles the creek. Aquatic Contracting of Portland will fell the trees and secure them in place.
The Restoration and Enhancement (R & E) Board of the Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife awarded FFC a $46,230 grant for the project in August 2010. The money comes from sport fishing licenses and commercial fishing permits. FFC is contributing $500 to the project and Teevin Brothers has donated $250. In addition, FFC volunteers will provide many hours of stream monitoring and education activities over the next few years.
In January 2010, Bill Bennett from LCREP assessed Fox Creek as part of data he is compiling to include in grant applications. He conducted a pebble count, stream cross-section and other measurements to help scientists and engineers determine the degree of resistance of the stream bed to stream flow at different run-off levels, giving a measure of the energy of the stream and providing a clue as to what size of logs will be sufficient to create long-lasting pools for fish-rearing habitat.
The culvert grate (trash rack) on Fox Creek at C Street in Rainier was prone to clogging by debris, making it difficult or impossible for Coho and Steelhead to pass upstream to spawn, and restricting drainage during high-runoff events.
Bob Burnham, who was FFC's vice president at the time, engaged the City of Rainier to modify the rack.
The old rack was removed by a City of Rainier crew and transported to FFC board member John Byrd’s shop at Beaver Springs for modification to meet state guidelines and facilitate fish passage.
John and other FFC volunteers did the necessary cutting and welding and hauled the trash rack back to C Street for replacement. A boom truck and operator were provided by Columbia River PUD to hoist the rack and lower it into place. FFC volunteers then anchored the rack to the concrete bulwark at the inlet to the culvert.
The modified rack is expected to improve passage for salmon and allow more water through during heavy rains, thereby reducing the potential for damaging flooding.
A 550-foot section of Fox Creek running under the city park in a culvert (an underground pipe) was excavated in 2001 by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in partnership with the City of Rainier and the Department of State Lands. FFC raised over $5,000 for the project and provided at least that much in volunteer services.
This part of the creek runs from the railroad tracks to the river. Where there was once a big pipe at the mouth of Fox Creek, there is now a stream in a more natural state, allowing salmon easier access to their spawning habitat upstream.
FFC volunteers planted native plants and cottonwood trees along the banks of the stream.
Later, in 2005, the Corps returned with a bank stabilization and re-vegetation project. FFC raised the local match of $15,000 for this project from an Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board grant, FFC funds and Rainier Economic Development Council.
FFC received a grant of $42,600 of lottery money from the Governor’s Watershed Enhancement Board to help pay for the excavation and restoration of a culverted 300-foot section of Fox Creek at the (then) Rainier Elementary School site.
In the 1950s, this part of the creek was filled and diverted through a culvert in order to build a playing field.
The culvert was too small for the stream flow during heavy rains, which resulted in serious flooding. It wasn't good for fish, either: Any culvert longer than 200 feet is a barrier to spawning salmon.
The school district chose to open the stream for educational use instead of spending about the same amount of money to build a bigger culvert to replace the crumbling, inadequate one.
Not only did it help reduce the severity of flooding in the area, FFC's first restoration project improved habitat for salmon and other wildlife, and created a superior outdoor learning area on the same site as the elementary school, which by that time was occupied by Rainier Intermediate School and North Columbia Academy.
FFC and community volunteers built and maintain a
1/3-mile nature trail near Fox Creek behind the school grounds, open
to the public year-round for recreation and education.
The trail makes a figure-eight pattern, winding through maples and conifers 40-120 years old (about a 45-minute walk). You can catch a glimpse of Fox Creek and its wetlands, a meadow and dozens of species of native trees, shrubs and perennials.
Every Earth Day, FFC holds a clean-up event to remove English ivy near the trail to allow the growth of formerly abundant native wildflowers.
- Working with the city to guarantee at least minimum flows in Fox Creek below the city's domestic water reservoir
- Removing non-native invasive plants along Fox and Nice creeks
- Daylighting the remaining buried sections of both creeks, which requires removing the culverts that run under the city to the Columbia River
- Creating a greenway along Fox Creek that will pass through the school ground and link up with the city park