Floodplain restoration begins at Circle Creek!

June 24, 2013
Straw bales and burlap help prevent loose soil from washing into the river.

Straw bales and burlap help prevent loose soil from washing into the river.

If you’ve been driving along Highway 101 just south of Seaside and are wondering what all the excavation is about, know that you are witnessing a historic floodplain restoration project in action.   North Coast Land Conservancy is allowing a berm that was built along the Necanicum River to be removed so that the seasonal high waters of the river will once again move out over the historic floodplain that makes up much of NCLC’s 364-acre Circle Creek Habitat Reserve.

NCLC Circle creek berm 20 June 2013 003 webIn recent decades, much of this seasonal water was constrained by the berm and flowed instead out over Highway 101, causing dangerous driving conditions, delays, and road closures.   Funding from the Oregon Department of Transportation has made this unique hybrid floodplain restoration-highway flooding resolution project possible.

“The berm removal is going remarkably well,” said wetland ecology consultant and fomer NCLC board member Doug Ray. “In just the first six days over 1,300 feet of berm was completley gone!” Ray is representing NCLC at the project site to ensure that the land trust’s ecological goals are being met during this delicate (de)construction project.

NCLC Circle cr berm removal 20 June 2013 006 webProject contractors from Henderson Land Services are using excavators to remove specific sections of the berm to allow waters to flow out onto the floodplain while leaving sections of mature riparian trees and shrubs intact.  In a creative twist, what would be a spoils pile for another project is being used to jump start a new wetland ecosystem in the old pasture.

NCLC Circle cr berm removal 20 June 2013 010 web Under Ray’s guidance, contractors are carefully digging out clumps of mature riparian shrubs such as willow and red elderberry and transplanting them out into holes dug into the pasture where they can re-establish themselves.

NCLC Circle cr berm removal 20 June 2013 102 webNCLC Circle cr berm removal 20 June 2013 100 web“It will take years for the 1-gallon native plants we’ll be planting to reach that size,” observes Ray. “These islands of mature shrubs will be providing food and habitat for birds and insects right away.  Purchasing plants this size would be ridiculously expensive, so reusing what would otherwise have to be hauled off-site and dumped just makes sense.”

In addition to saving clumps of native shrubs for re-planting, Ray has also been able to provide strategic guidance that allows contractors to safely leave in place some of the mature alder and willow clumps along the river’s edge.

NCLC Circle creek berm 20 June 2013 004 webNCLC Stewardship Director Melissa Reich couldn’t be more please with how work is progressing.  “It feels great to have this project underway, and to see how well it’s all going.  This is a huge step toward establishing a functioning Necanicum River floodplain again.”

As much as everyone at NCLC is enjoying the fairly warm, sunny summer we’re experiencing on the north Oregon coast, we’re all secretly looking forward to that first big rain of the season, and getting to watch the Necanicum River reconnect with its floodplain for the first time in decades.

This ariel photo taken by NCLC board member Randall Henderson shows much of the berm removal project area mowed and ready for planting.

This ariel photo taken by NCLC board member Randall Henderson shows much of the berm removal project area where the river wraps around the Circle Creek Campground.



  1. Kit Ketcham says:

    This is incredibly cool!

  2. Doug Ray says:

    Yes Kit, the largest watershed restoration project funded by ODOT for mitigation the Necanicum watershed has ever had implemented and likely ever will!!!

  3. Jeffrey Roehm says:

    Doug, we did a planting of sitka spruce and alder a few years back just north of the camp ground. The fly fishing group was there helping. Those guys must be thrilled with this. This is a huge stream bank rehab as well as a wetland mitigation. The river thanks NCLC too.

  4. Robyn Truax says:

    Top-notch work! Thank-you North Coast Land Conservancy for doing what all of our government agencies should be doing!! Using science to better our world, not greed!!

  5. Jan Ellern says:

    This is being done in such a fantastic way. Transplanting and keeping what’s good, instead of making things worse by just digging it out. Very good work!

  6. Ken Bierly says:

    It is wonderful to see the return of floodplain function to this property. The NCLC took a big leap to acquire it under intense legislative scrutiny. This outcome is one of the proofs of the foresight and hard work of the NCLC. Thank you!!