Western Rivers Conservancy is working to restore the once extensive floodplain along the Willamette River. With seventy percent of Oregon's population residing in the Willamette Valley, the floodplain has become a nearly uniform landscape of tilled acres and urban centers. As a result, flood events have increased in frequency and severity, and the diversity of habitat and wildlife has dwindled.
Fortunately, the building blocks for a Willamette floodplain restoration program still exist. Outstanding remnants of the natural river environment, including backwater sloughs, oxbows, and gallery forests, persist in pockets along the river. For over a decade, WRC has worked to acquire these "relic areas" and adjacent properties, working to connect remnant channels and restore the natural character of the Willamette River and its floodplain.
Coast Fork Willamette River, Lane County
Western Rivers Conservancy purchased a forty-two-acre stretch of floodplain along the Coast Fork Willamette River near Eugene in 1998. The property had been used for farmland, but still contained habitat for Willamette River salmon and the endangered western pond turtle. The previous owner of the property had become disillusioned with farming in the floodplain following the catastrophic flood of 1996.
Western Rivers Conservancy offered a conservation solution to meet the farmer's needs while protecting important fish and wildlife habitat. Funding was provided by the Bonneville Power Administration's wildlife mitigation program. The property is now owned by the BPA and managed by the Friends of Buford Park and Mt. Pisgah. The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife is assisting with the restoration of fish and wildlife habitat on the property.