Winter Lake on the Coquille River
Winter Lake on the Coquille Ri Winter Lake on the Coquille River © Brady Holden

Stories in Oregon

Restoring Winter Lake

An innovative tide gate system and restored wetlands offer improved habitat for juvenile salmon

Tidal wetlands and estuaries—where rivers and oceans meet—are ecologically critical habitats, providing juvenile salmon, among other species, with the much-needed space to grow strong and healthy. Improving conditions in estuaries and restoring tidal wetlands is shown to have tremendous impacts on fish populations and health, in addition to water quality.  

It's hard to overstate the importance of salmon for the people and ecosystems of the Pacific Northwest. A critical food source for coastal communities and countless species of wildlife, salmon are also key contributors to the health and balance of rivers, streams, forests and watersheds. 

Over the past decade, we've worked to restore habitat for juvenile coho salmon in southwestern Oregon by restoring tidal wetlands and installing a new state-of-the-art tide gate system at a special place called Winter Lake on the Coquille River. This story is one of collaboration, innovation and commitment on all sides to sustaining a threatened species that sustains us.  

 

Conceived of more than a century ago by ranchers and farmers, tide gates block tidally influenced river water from flooding the surrounding land, allowing it to be more reliably grazed. The antiquated design, however, partially blocked fish passage and left critical wetland areas to dry. 

Working hand-in-hand with ranchers, the Coquille Tribe, and the Beaver Slough Drainage District, we replaced the failing tide gates with a more sustainable design that allows ranchers to better control the flow of water to benefit both cattle and fish. The result is a win-win: juvenile salmon can more easily access these nurseries and enjoy the necessary rearing areas they need to prepare for their time at sea while ranchers are able to extend their grazing season.

Restoration of the tidal wetlands in the area along with improved passage through tide gates will allow juvenile salmon to reach the ocean at twice the size of those prior to the improvements, dramatically increasing their survival rates.  

Stand Up for Salmon

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We've installed innovative new tide gates at Winter Lake on the Coquille River that allow for fish passage and for agricultural fields to be flooded for juvenile salmon when they need it. But we've got a lot more work to do. There are 2,000 failing tide gates in Oregon—1,000 along the coast and 1,000 on the Columbia River—that are negatively impacting fish passage and juvenile salmon habitat. With your support, we are committed to restoring the tidal wetlands salmon need to thrive.