Smith River Estuary Backwater Habitat Enhancement Project Receives FY23 PMEP Funding

The Smith River Alliance is leading this project, which will enhance a naturally occurring backwater feature on the south bank of the Smith River estuary, benefitting Southern Oregon and Northern Coastal California ESU Coho salmon, SONCC Chinook salmon, and Klamath Mountain Province Steelhead. The project will increase channel complexity along the mainstem Smith River and addresses impaired estuary function by increasing the quantity and quality of off-channel slow water rearing habitat and benefit up to 8,000 outmigrating Coho salmon smolts. Tidally influenced backwater habitat is extremely beneficial but rare in the Smith River estuary and this project will improve connectivity to this limited habitat. The project will enhance the hydrologic connection to 660 lineal feet of off-channel habitat, and increase the duration and range of flows that migrating and rearing juvenile Coho salmon can access the off-channel habitat feature by 94%. Two large wood structures containing 14 logs will be installed at the entrance and up to 13 single log structures will be installed throughout the backwater. The riparian area will be planted with native species including: 1,386 wetland plants, 114 herbaceous understory plants, 78 shrubs, and 120 trees. Livestock exclusion fencing will be installed along 1,800 feet to permanently exclude cattle from 51 acres of the Smith River estuary.