WOODLAND, Wash. (KOIN) — Homeowners along the Lewis River in Southwest Washington are caught in the middle of a delicate balance between human and wildlife needs.
The Lower Columbia Fish Enhancement Group installed log formations and improved one side of a channel along the Lewis River in an attempt to improve the salmon habitat.
But people who own land along the opposite side of the river believe the $200,000 project is pushing the river their direction and eating away their property.
Aerial images show an indentation in the riverbank that didn’t use to be there.
Land owners said the former project manager originally planned enhancements on their side of the river to protect their property but didn’t follow through. Now, they’re concerned another planned project upriver could do more harm.
“I’m all for fish population enhancement; I donated money and wrote a letter of support,” said neighbor Kathryn Miller. “However, it did not turn out the way I was promised.”
Brice Crayne, the current project manager, said the Lewis River is unique in that it’s “one of the very few places in the Columbia River that has a healthy, wild Chinook population.”
Crayne has promised to fix the breakdown in communication he inherited but he said he might not have all of the answers neighbors are demanding.
Crayne told KOIN 6 News it’s hard to say how much blame falls on the project for the changes in the riverbank — and how much is simply caused by nature.
“It’s tough, you’ve got landowners who want to keep their bank in place and you’ve got a river that’s naturally trying to move,” said Crayne. “You’ve got a river that’s naturally impacted by 3 major reservoirs. It’s a broken system, so we’re trying to help these fish the best we can without negatively impacting landowners. It’s always just a conversation and I think that’s really the breakdown.”