PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – After a two-year closure that allowed time for habitat restoration work, the Steigerwald Lake National Wildlife Refuge will reopen to the public on May 1.
According to the Bonneville Power Administration, construction on the Steigerwald Reconnection Project began in 2019. It’s the largest habitat restoration project in the history of the lower Columbia River and served as a way to reduce flood risk, reconnect 965 acres of Columbia River floodplain, and increase recreation opportunities at the refuge.
The refuge is located just east of Washougal, Washington.
Officials from the Bonneville Power Administration say the project will help young salmon and steelhead as they migrate to the ocean by increasing the Columbia River floodplain habitat between the Bonneville Dam and Willamette River by 19%.
It also increases habitat along the Pacific Flyway, a migratory bird path extending from Alaska to Patagonia.
“The Steigerwald Reconnection Project helps reestablish hundreds of acres of floodplain habitat in a portion of the river where restoration opportunities are limited. The project also helps lower local flood risks, boosts aquatic habitat for salmon and other important species, and increases recreational opportunities on state shorelines,” said Laura Watson, director for the Washington Department of Ecology.
Other accomplishments of the project include expanding the refuge by 160 acres through a property acquisition, removing 2.2 miles of Columbia River levee and connecting the river to its historic floodplain for the first time in more than 50 years, constructing 1.6 miles of new setback levees to better protect the Port of Camas-Washougal Industrial Park, raising a portion of State Route 14, and adding 1.1 miles of new trail to the urban refuge.
“The Steigerwald Reconnection Project not only expanded recreation opportunities, but it also essentially eliminated flood risk to the Port’s Industrial Park, which is the economic engine for our community, and greatly reduced our operations and maintenance costs,” said David Ripp, CEO for the Port of Camas-Washougal.
A reopening ceremony will be held on Saturday, May 7, as long as COVID-19 case and hospitalization levels remain low in Clark County.
The project cost $31 million and created approximately 513 jobs, the Bonneville Power Administration said. It also brought in more than $67 million to Washington’s economy.
Funding was provided by the Bonneville Power Administration, Washington Department of Ecology, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and Bonneville Environmental Foundation
More information about the project and improvements it created in the area is available online.